Accounting, Organisations and Institutions

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Michael Power KSW 3.12


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Accounting, Organisations and Institutions. This course is not available as an outside option.

This course is not available to other students except in special circumstances and with the written permission of the Course Director.


There are no specific accounting pre-requisites.  This course does not require a background in accounting and both the programme and this course are open to specialists and non-specialists alike. Pre-sessional training in the form of various intensive sessions prior to the start of term will be offered for those who need a brief 'technical' preparation for the Progamme.

Course content

The objective of the course is to provide students with an advanced, social science- based critical understanding of the changing role and position of accounting practices in organisations, both public and private, and in societies more generally. Students will be exposed to advanced thinking and case materials about how accounting practices are more than a collection of routine self-evident techniques but are shaped by their institutional contexts, have behavioural consequences and can represent different values. We will focus on how the fundamental assumptions of  internal and external accounting practices are institutional in nature and are  shaped by social and political aspirations. The role of accountants and other agents involved in the production and consumption of accounting numbers will also be addressed.

The course will equip students to understand the inter-relations between technical, organisational and institutional issues. While some technical accounting knowledge may be helpful, it is not essential and each lecture will provide the necessary technical foundations.

Indicative topics, " include:

Foundations: Reporting, Calculation and Transparency; Quantification and Measurement; Accounting and the Notion of "Entity"; Audit and Assurance: The Audit Society; Organisational Boundaries, Structure and Control; Accountability, Incentives and Performance; Accounting for Sustainability; Organisational Failure. Risk Management, Accountability and Corporate Governance;-Disasters, Accidents and Errors; Organisations and the Management of Uncertainty; The Risk Management Process; Mapping and Communicating Risk in Organisations; Organisations, Security and Resilience; Corporate Governance: Board Functioning, Gatekeepers, Executive Compensation, Regulation.


Teaching will be delivered in the form of two weekly 90-minute sessions over 11 weeks across both Michaelmas and Lent Terms. Each session contains a variety of technical content, practical exercises, and case analyses. This year, some or all of this teaching may be delivered using virtual classes as an alternative to face-to-face teaching.

This course has a reading and feedback week in Week 6 of both MT and LT so there is 30 hours of teaching per term.

Formative coursework

Students will be required to produce two pieces of written work per term. This may take the form of either an essay, or the analysis of a case, and may also include in-class presentation and team-based work. This work will be assessed, but the grades will not count towards the overall course assessment.

Indicative reading

Chapman, Cooper & Miller (eds.), Accounting, Organizations and Institutions (Oxford, 2009); Hopwood & Miller (eds.), Accounting as Social and Institutional Practice (Cambridge, 1994); Power, The Audit Society (Oxford, 1999); Power, Organized Uncertainty: Designing a World of Risk Management (Oxford, 2007); Hutter & Power (eds.), Organizational Encounters with Risk (Cambridge, 2005);Coffee, Gatekeepers: The Professions and Corporate Governance (Oxford, 2006); Bebchuk & Fried, Pay Without Performance (Harvard, 2004); Power, Riskwork: Essays on the Organizational Life of Risk Management (Oxford, 2016)


Exam (50%, duration: 2 hours) in the summer exam period.
Essay (50%, 6000 words) in the ST.

Student performance results

(2016/17 - 2018/19 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 27.2
Merit 42.9
Pass 20.4
Fail 9.5

Teachers' comment

AC424 is the core course for students on the MSc Accounting, Organisations and Institutions programme. It will introduce you to new perspectives on accounting that are likely to be challenging and provocative, whether or not you have already studied accounting. You will come away from the course with a different understanding of what accounting is and what it can do. We consistently receive positive feedback from students after they have left LSE; they find the critical perspective of the course/programme valuable in their later careers. The course is taught by a variety of faculty members on topics that relate to their core areas of expertise.  Students enjoy being part of a small cohort who get to know each other and have good contact with, and feedback from, faculty. In addition, there is a lively alumni network.

I was very pleased with high standard of performance in the 2019 AC424 examination and the quality of long essays continues to be very high.  A report on how students addressed each exam question is available with generic feedback and observations.

I continue to explore ways to innovate the teaching materials in order to remain relevant.  For example, in 2018/19 there was a new seminar on blockchain and auditing.

I would like to emphasise that students with social science, humanities or law backgrounds are very welcome to apply for this course/programme.  

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Accounting

Total students 2019/20: 47

Average class size 2019/20: 47

Controlled access 2019/20: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Commercial awareness