Original Research

Twenty-first-century competencies and capabilities for financial accounting students

Elette van den Berg, Sebastiaan Rothmann
South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences | Vol 27, No 1 | a5535 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajems.v27i1.5535 | © 2024 Elette van den Berg, Sebastiaan Rothmann | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 February 2024 | Published: 08 July 2024

About the author(s)

Elette van den Berg, Optentia Research Unit, Faculty of Humanities, North-West University, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa; and Department of Industrial Psychology and Human Resource Management, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, North-West University, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa
Sebastiaan Rothmann, Optentia Research Unit, Faculty of Humanities, North-West University, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa


Background: The financial accounting profession faces several challenges in the 21st century. Research is needed to prepare financial accountants for these challenges.

Aim: This study aimed to determine which 21st-century competencies were essential for financial accounting students in South Africa from the perspectives of students, their educators and professionals and to investigate the capabilities of these three stakeholder groups.

Setting: Stakeholders in financial accounting (students, their educators and professionals) across institutions and organisations in South Africa.

Methods: A quantitative method and cross-sectional survey were used. Financial accounting students (N = 112), lecturers (N = 12) and professionals (N = 42) completed the 21st Century Universal Competencies Questionnaire and the Capability Set for Work Questionnaire.

Results: The findings showed that thinking and learning to learn were the most critical 21st-century competencies for the financial accounting profession. Stakeholders differed regarding the second-highest ranked competencies: For professionals, it was working skills and entrepreneurship; for lecturers, it was information and communication technology and for students, it was self-care and managing everyday life. Cultural competencies and building a sustainable future were ranked lowest in all three stakeholder groups.

Conclusion: Similarities and differences exist between stakeholder views of the importance of specific 21st-century competencies for financial accountancy. Financial accounting professionals and lecturers showed high capabilities, except for involvement in decision-making and earning a good income for lecturers.

Contribution: This study offered a new perspective on the 21st-century competencies and capabilities as perceived by different stakeholders.


capability approach; financial accounting; student; competencies; capabilities, functioning; South Africa

JEL Codes

I21: Analysis of Education; I23: Higher Education • Research Institutions; I31: General Welfare, Well-Being

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education


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