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Last modified: 31 May 2022 13:05

Course Overview

This course examines of the special issues concerning the public sector of the economy. It investigates why public sector accounting is different from private sector accounting and examines management accounting, financial accounting and auditing from a public sector perspective. The course will be of interest those wishing to develop knowledge and understanding of the importance of financial management of this segment of the economy. It utilises a research-based set of readings and examples and is highly accessible to accounting students.

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 4
Session First Sub Session Credit Points 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits)
Campus Aberdeen Sustained Study No
  • Dr Audrey Paterson

What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • Programme Level 4
  • Accountancy (AC)
  • Any Undergraduate Programme

What other courses must be taken with this course?


What courses cannot be taken with this course?


Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description

Public Sector Accounting is a large part of the professional services industry both nationally and internationally. Public sector organisations don’t operate in the same way as the private sector, and their responsibilities are very different. The private sector for example is predominantly focussed on profit maximisation. In contrast the public sector is focussed on the delivery of public services that are largely free at the point of delivery. Shareholder return or profit margins are irrelevant. However, this does not mean that public sector organisations don’t have financial responsibility or have to demonstrate efficient and effective use of financial resources. Indeed, financial management in the public sector plays a vital role in terms of ensuring efficiency and control through accounting, budgeting and planning, towards positive financial results.

The aim of this course is to develop the students understanding of the nature of the public sector, how it differs from the private sector and how this difference impacts on the accounting and financial management practices in public sector organisations. The course begins with an overview of the history of the public sector before moving on to outline its current characteristics. It considers the influence of government and the many changes that have been implemented in the financial management of the public sector in the last few decades, the most important of which are related to the introduction of new public management principles, modernization of the accounting system and the harmonization with the private sector accounting. The course will cover sources of funding and the distribution of finance for the major elements of the public sector; central government, local government, education, policing and the NHS. The course will also consider the impact of current developments and changes in legislation upon public sector services and critically discuss their impact on the delivery of public sector services. Practical examples will be used to illustrate the accounting and financial management issues involved.

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

More Information about Week Numbers

Details, including assessments, may be subject to change until 31 August 2023 for 1st half-session courses and 22 December 2023 for 2nd half-session courses.

Summative Assessments

Three MCQ Tests 20% each = 60%

2000 word essay 40%

Formative Assessment

There are no assessments for this course.

Course Learning Outcomes

Knowledge LevelThinking SkillOutcome
ConceptualAnalyseAbility to employ management accounting models and techniques in planning, control and strategic decision making.
ProceduralEvaluateKnowledge and understanding of management accounting theory and practice.
ConceptualEvaluateKnowledge of the regulatory and legal environment of organisations.
ConceptualAnalyseAbility to identify and review relevant academic literature.

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