Teaching Business Ethics

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 235–249

An Analysis of Australian Final Year Accountancy Students' Ethical Attitudes

  • Conor O'Leary
  • Renee Radich


Ethical behaviour is a critical component of theaccountancy/auditing profession. This study examines ethicalattitudes of final year accountancy students in Australia.Students were surveyed as to whether they would accept a bribe todefraud a public institution (Taxation Office) or shareholders,cheat in an exam, and/or become whistleblowers in differingcircumstances. A high proportion of students appeared willing toaccept the bribe (25% Taxation Office and 20% shareholders). Thispercentage plummeted when the risk of being caught was introduced(9% Taxation Office and 6% shareholders). The difference betweenmale and female responses was significant. Males appeared fourtimes more likely than females to act unethically. 28% ofstudents appeared willing to cheat in an exam. Interestingly,the difference between male and female responses was lesssignificant. Again the risk of being caught drastically reducedthese figures (6%). Just greater than 50% of students appearedwilling to become whistleblowers for the frauds against theTaxation Office and shareholders, however, only 8% wouldwhistleblow on cheating in an examination. Finally theimplications for educators, attempting to provide effectiveethical education for trainee accountants/auditors, are considered.

accountants auditors education ethics risk whistleblowing 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Conor O'Leary
    • 1
  • Renee Radich
    • 2
  1. 1.School of AccountancyQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.School of Economics and Financial StudiesMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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