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UM's accounting programs climb

The University of Mississippi has long touted its Patterson School of Accountancy as one of the best in the U.S. Now, it has a national survey to back up its claim.

Public Accounting Report recently released a new national ranking that placed UM’s doctoral and graduate programs in accountancy both at 15th in the nation, while its undergraduate program also landed in the top 20 at 18th.

This marked the first time that all three UM programs ranked in the top 20. For many years, UM’s undergraduate program has been ranked in the top 30, with the highest previous ranking being 22nd in 2006. Previously, the master’s program had been ranked as high as 23rd. However, the biggest jump was in the Ph.D. program, which had never ranked higher than 28th.

“National recognition of the Patterson School of Accountancy affirms the historic quality of the school,” UM chancellor Robert Khayat said. “Bright, dedicated faculty and students who are generously supported by our accounting graduates enable us to be among America’s finest accounting programs. All of us are grateful to Dean (Mark) Wilder for his leadership.”

More than 1,000 schools in the United States offer accounting programs and approximately 500 of those, including UM, are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, or AACSB International, as being among “the best accountancy and business programs in the world.”

“Being in the top 15 to 18 schools is indeed a significant accomplishment,” said Dale Flesher, associate dean and Arthur Andersen Alumni Lecturer. “I was particularly pleased with the ranking of the doctoral program. Not only are we ranked 15th, but the schools above us are the premier schools in America. For example, Harvard is ranked 10th.

“Of the schools ranked above Ole Miss at the Ph.D. level, seven of them are private institutions; we rank eighth among public universities.”

The top-ranked SEC school for 2008 is the University of Georgia at seventh at the undergraduate level, 10th at the master’s level and 11th at the doctoral level. Ole Miss is the next highest ranked SEC school among graduate accounting programs. Other SEC schools ranked in the top 25, other than Ole Miss and Georgia, are the universities of Alabama, Florida and Tennessee.

“It is a tremendous accomplishment for the Patterson School to be recognized as one of the top accountancy programs nationally,” Wilder said. “We have great students who go on to have outstanding careers, a committed and student oriented faculty and loyal generous alumni. All of these factors contribute significantly to this success and to our recognition in the national rankings.”

Summarizing the reasons for UM’s recognition, former dean Tonya Flesher, Arthur Andersen Professor of Accountancy, said, “The ranking addresses the perception of how well our graduates will perform; this perception is based on the success of past graduates, the national reputation of the faculty, and the availability of the largest accountancy library in the world.”

Flesher was referring to the National Library of the Accountancy Profession, which is permanently housed on the Oxford campus.

UM’s program also received some publicity earlier in the fall from a former chief accountant of the Securities & Exchange Commission. In a Treasury Department report investigating the problems of the auditing profession, former chief accountant Lynn Turner said, “Given the complexities and risks of a global business environment, a post-graduate program, similar to that developed at the University of Mississippi, is necessary for future accountants and auditors to provide quality services to investors and others they serve.”

“This recognition that if other programs were organized similar to ours, there would be fewer problems in the auditing profession, is acknowledgement that we are doing something right,” Flesher said. “This recognition may have helped us gain a few votes in the balloting for rankings.”

“We are pleased with the recognition that the Patterson School of Accountancy has received from the Public Accounting Report,” Provost Morris Stocks said. “This achievement is a credit to the leadership of Dean Wilder and the commitment of our faculty, students and alumni.”

Thirty years ago, UM saw the need to put more emphasis on its accounting programs, and those efforts have not been wasted. To keep pace with the increasing number of career options in accounting, the university elevated its accounting program to a separate school — the Patterson School of Accountancy — in 1979. (UM has offered accounting education since 1848.) The school was indeed a pioneer, and became the first in the nation to receive accreditation for both its undergraduate and graduate programs.

Its offerings keep it in the national accounting limelight. In addition to the National Library of the Accountancy Profession, the school houses two national research centers — the National Tax History Research Center, co-sponsored by the Academy of Accounting Historians, and the National EDP Audit Archival Center.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at wally.northway@msbusiness.com.

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