Business schools can’t create data analytics master’s programs, and the degree holders who graduate from them, fast enough — so industry has been giving them a push. In January, the U.S. firm of global audit, tax, and advisory services giant KPMG and two schools, Villanova Business School and The Ohio State’s Fisher College of Business, announced admits for the inaugural one-year Master of Accounting with Data and Analytics, designed to integrate KPMG’s proprietary tech with an elite academic curriculum to produce what industry most desires: top-flight accountants who can grapple with and analyze big data streams. Classes got underway this week, with each school boasting a cohort of about 25.
Students, most of whom are former KPMG interns, have their tuition, room, and board covered by KPMG, where they will go to work full-time upon graduation. But 50 new auditors per year isn’t enough for a company that has member firms in 152 countries that employ 189,000 professionals, so now KPMG is expanding the program.
Starting in fall 2018, the KPMG Master of Accounting with Data Analytics (MACDA) will expand to seven more schools and a total of 135 students, says Roger O’Donnell, KPMG senior U.S. Audit partner. It’s a move the company had planned all along to make, he says, but the fact that KPMG announced it only a few days before classes begin at the first two schools shows how confident the company is that they’re backing a winner.
“The view that we had from the beginning was that this would likely be a program that would move beyond the first two schools that we started with,” O’Donnell tells Poets&Quants. “When the program was announced last year, there was a tremendous level of interest from other universities to explore what was being discussed, and whether there was an opportunity for them to bring some of the content of the curriculum into their university accounting programs. We began having conversations with a large number of schools, explaining to them what our perspective was in terms of what we’re hoping the schools would evolve to, and explaining what our commitments were and what we were willing to contribute.”
‘WE DON’T HAVE OWNERSHIP OF THE CURRICULUM’
The KPMG program will expand to Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, University of Mississippi’s Patterson School of Accountancy, University of Missouri’s Trulaske College of Business, University of Southern California’s Leventhal School of Accounting, and Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business. The Patterson School will integrate the program into its Master of Accountancy and Master of Taxation degrees, while the program’s expansion to the Hankamer School “will focus on incorporating KPMG technology and proprietary audit tools into the school’s Master of Accounting curriculum, allowing KPMG to further broaden the scope of student education through technology investments,” according to a company news release.
KPMG’s program provides each school with access to company audit technologies that mesh with the schools’ academic programs, says O’Donnell, who will be at Villanova today (August 17) to meet with students and faculty in the MACDA program and go over logistics, resources, and curricula. His visit — and a simultaneous one by KPMG officers at Ohio State — will be a first opportunity to do what KPMG will do throughout the program: offer feedback, give input on curriculum design, answer questions on case studies and data sets, and explain the audit technology that the schools now have access to. “We’re excited about the seeds, or the raw materials, if you will, that we’ve given them,” O’Donnell says.
“As I describe it to people, we don’t have ownership of the curriculum,” he continues. “We’ve encouraged them to think about how they incorporate our data into their auditing classes. We’re hopeful that they will, and that they will combine that with the other elements of the classes that they’re designing — to weave them together for a more holistic story.”
Being a global firm, KPMG is bringing the program to other shores, as well. The company’s Ireland member firm launched a similar program in March at the National University Ireland Galway, and its South Africa firm is piloting a program at the University of Witwatersrand. Several other KPMG firms are pursuing additional similar relationships in their respective countries.
MORE GROWTH? SKY’S THE LIMIT
The students who benefit from KPMG master’s program won’t be restricted to the 135 who have their expenses and tuition paid for by the company, O’Donnell says. He points out that as originally designed, the MACDA program was meant to be an individual cohort at Villanova and the entire MAcc (Master of Accounting) program at Ohio State, “not just including the students that we were covering payments for, but also the students that were effectively part of the master’s program at Ohio State that could be employed by anyone.” That, he adds, is the model the seven newer programs will follow. “So you’re going to have upwards of 750 students — and probably close to 1,000 — graduating from this program across the nine schools and the various master’s programs. That gives you the sense that this is going to actually grow to be some sizable numbers.”
Will this be the last expansion, or is KPMG looking to corner the data analytics education market by growing to other campuses?
“From our perspective, we want to consider how these students perform,” O’Donnell says. “We felt last year going into this year, we would likely expand the program, though we hoped to see some performance metrics from the students. Then we saw an opportunity with the level of interest with the (seven) schools and their desire to have this content in their programs, so we felt that increasing it to the numbers that we have would be a good size for us to see what the results are, to digest it, and to analyze what the impact’s been in terms of performance.”