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  • Beyond Compliance--Innovative Educational Materials Depict Auditor Independence as a Value Driver


    Champaign, Ill. -- “Everyone here knows that independence is a critical attribute of any auditor,” said Ryan Clark, junior accountancy student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Without it, financial reporting is less reliable and, in turn, the efficiency of our economy suffers.”
    Ira Solomon, head of the ILLINOIS Department of Accountancy and a leader in accountancy education, supports teaching all accountancy students “that the most central responsibility of an auditor is to conduct themselves with integrity and objectivity and be independent of influences from the companies that hire them.”
    As a result, the department has partnered with industry leaders at the accountancy firm Deloitte and thought leaders at the College of Business’s Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society to produce educational videos and case studies. These materials are being provided gratis to educators around the globe.
    Mark Peecher, professor of accountancy at ILLINOIS and one of the co-authors of the case study materials observes that “Professionals and students needed a way to learn about independence issues that is meaningfully connected to the professional judgments that auditors make during a regular business day. These realistic connections provide a superior educational scaffold so that, from the get go, students integrate independence into their broader understanding of what it means to exercise professional audit judgment.  Plus we wanted these materials to accessibly summarize key findings from audit research to help students seriously reflect on how to ensure their own independence once they become audit professionals.”
    “Traditionally,” University of Texas Accountancy Professor William Kinney points out, “the idea of independence is taught to accountants as a compliance issue, basically as a rule you must follow. To teach it as a virtue or value driver engages students more fully. With these materials, memorization is reduced, while comprehension, integration, understanding and ultimately compliance all are enhanced. It is very important to our financial system that future auditors understand well the importance of their independence and the trust it cultivates.”
    “These resources bring to life detailed fundamental technical topics in really interesting ways,” says accounting professor Jay Thibodeau at Bentley University. “They uniquely present comprehensive coverage of what you will find in the academic literature on auditor independence with realistic examples you find in real business situations. The obvious collaboration between scholars and practitioners elevates the material in a powerful way.”
    This ensemble of new educational materials is a good example of one of the foci of the Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society.  That is creating educational materials that really work for today’s students by helping them to understand that professionalism is a key value driver according to Gretchen Winter, executive director of the Center. “The Center promotes the development of responsible professional behavior in today's students with the expectation that they will become effective, ethical, and responsible leaders in a constantly changing and challenging business environment.”
    “Independence is a cornerstone of the public accounting profession,” says Mark Chain, Deloitte partner and co-author of the education materials. “Understanding the concept of independence, and a public accounting professional’s responsibilities for maintaining independence, are key components of a student’s foundation for an accounting and business career.  Deloitte is committed to supporting the academic community in developing relevant curricula as they prepare our future professionals.”

    All materials can be accessed under “New Center Initiative” from the Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society website at

    Barlow LeVold
    Assistant Director of Communication
    College of Business, UIUC

    About the Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society:

    The University of Illinois Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society leads the development and articulation of a national vision describing society’s expectations of a professional’s responsibility at both the individual and the organizational level. The Center coordinates a wide range of intellectual resources, creating and sharing materials that demonstrate the value of operating in a way that serves and protects the broad public interest in an ever-changing business environment.

    About the College of Business:

    Internationally recognized as one of the leading business schools, the College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has outstanding programs in accountancy, business administration, and finance. The College enrolls approximately 2,800 undergraduates and 1,000 graduate students in MBA, master’s, and doctoral programs.

    About Deloitte LLP:

    Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, a Swiss Verein, and its network of member firms, each of which is a legally separate and independent entity. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and its member firms.  Deloitte LLP is the U.S. member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. Its subsidiaries provide audit, tax, consulting and financial advisory services through more than 45,000 people in the US.  Known as an employer of choice for innovative human resources programs, it is dedicated to helping its clients and people excel.


    UIUC College of Business Department of Accountancy