Research projects

Learn about the School of Accounting and Commercial Law’s research projects, and the external research grants obtained to support them.

External research grants

Ako Aotearoa

Martin Turner was awarded an external grant of $10,000 from Ako Aotearoa to support the development of a suite of spreadsheets on 350 listed companies in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom. These spreadsheets are designed to support students to develop intrinsic motivation, adopt a deep approach to their learning and engage in critical thinking while studying Financial Statement Analysis. The spreadsheets give scaffolding and support for students which, along with other interventions in course design, enable students to complete analysis of their own individual firm with regular formative feedback and marking time from academics of about 1.5 hours per student.

This resource, along with other complementary teaching tools that have been developed, will be made widely available to teachers of Financial Statement Analysis courses, particularly in New Zealand, Australia and the UK, on the Ako Aotearoa website. This is especially relevant in New Zealand, where it is expected Financial Statement Analysis may become a required course in many New Zealand business schools over the next few years for students to meet the academic requirements for entry into membership of the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants.

Department of Internal Affairs Lottery Grants Board

What works? A systematic review of research and evaluation literature on encouragement and support of volunteering (Dr Karen Smith (VMS) and Dr Carolyn Cordery (SACL) as part of the Volunteer Management Research Programme).

This literature review will assist Lottery Committees to make distribution decisions that are evidence-based, and to focus on the most effective interventions. The review uses the stages of volunteering from non-volunteer to committed volunteer to discuss good practice in the management of volunteers within organisations. This includes provision of volunteering infrastructure, recruitment, training, and retention strategies.

Department of Labour

2007-2010 - $20,080 - Building Financial Literacy: A Guide for Unions. Funding from the Employment Relations Education Contestable Fund, as part of a collaborative research project between Professor Judy Brown, the NZ Amalgamated Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union and NZ Council of Trade Unions.  This project is designed to research the accounting information needs of unions and to develop and update a second edition of "Brown, J., Understanding and Using Company Reports, 1991". It also builds on Professor Brown's book on Good Faith in Collective Bargaining (co-authored with Geoff Davenport, 2002).

Foundation for Research Science and Technology

2004-2009 - $500,000 - subcontract with Landcare Research for a FRST-funded project: Building Capacity for Sustainable Development - The Enabling Research (Professor Judy Brown, Michael Fraser and Pala Molisa). Landcare Research is the lead organisation for the 6-year ($6.1 million dollar) programme. This research explores, inter alia, the challenges of developing more dialogic conceptions of accounting and associated accounting technologies (e.g. sustainability assessment models, scenarios) and considers their application in different organisational and institutional contexts and the potential they have for enabling organizations and institutions to transition toward more sustainable forms of development.

Publications to date

Bebbington, J., Brown, J. and Frame, B. (2007). Accounting Technologies and Sustainability Assessment Models. Ecological Economics, Vol. 61(2/3), pp. 224-236.

Bebbington, J., Brown, J., Frame, B. and Thomson, I. (2007). Theorizing Engagement: The Potential of a Critical Dialogic Approach. Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, Vol. 20(3), pp. 356-381.

Brown, J. (2009). Democracy, Sustainability and Dialogic Accounting Technologies: Taking Pluralism Seriously, Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Vol. 20(3), pp. 313-342.

Cavanagh, J., Frame, B., Fraser, M. and Gabe, J. (2007). Experiences on Applying a Sustainability Assessment Model, The New Zealand Society for Sustainability Engineering and Science Conference, Auckland.

Frame, B. and Brown, J. (2008). Developing Post-Normal Technologies for Sustainability, Ecological Economics, Vol. 65(2), pp. 225-241.

Frame, B., Molisa, P., Taylor, R., Toia, H. and Wong LS. (2005). 100% Pure Conjecture? Accounts of our Future State(s). In: Liu JH, McCreanor T, McIntosh T, Teaiwa T. (Eds), New Zealand Identities: Belonging and Longing to Be, Wellington, VUW Press, 2005.

Fraser, M. (2009). Sustainability and Organisational Change: An Experiment with a Social Accounting Technology, 6th Annual European Network for Research in Organisational and Accounting Change Conference, Dundee.

Fraser, M. (2007a). An Attempt at Organisational Change with an Experimental Accounting Technology: An Aborted Excursion, Fifth Asia Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting Conference, Auckland.

Fraser, M. (2007b). Dialogics and Sustainability Assessment Models, 19th International Congress on Social and Environmental Accounting Conference, St Andrews, Scotland.

Molisa, P. (2009). The Politics of Accountability and Transparency under Capitalism - A Dialectical Interpretation, 9th Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Accounting Conference, Innsbruck, Austria.

Molisa, P. (2008a). Accountability and Transparency under Capitalism, Critical Perspectives in Accounting Conference, New York.

Molisa, P. (2008b). Naming the Enemy: A Call for Post-capitalist Visions for Social Accounting, Critical Perspectives in Accounting Conference, New York.

Molisa, P. (2006). Accounting and Critical Consciousness: Emancipatory Possibilities, 8th Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Accounting Conference, Cardiff, July (a version of this paper was also presented at the Australasian CSEAR Conference, Wellington in November).


A three-year Marsden-funded project led by School of Accounting and Commercial Law Professor Judy Brown aims to challenge accounting’s traditional business focus.

The research project ‘Dialogic Accounting: The Challenge of Taking Multiple Perspectives Seriously’, recently awarded $685,000 in Marsden funding, seeks to help open traditional accounting to critical scrutiny and provide alternatives that recognise the needs of various stakeholder communities.

“Accounting has traditionally focused on meeting the information needs of financial markets and maximising shareholder wealth,” says Professor Brown.

“It has downplayed or ignored many issues of concern in contemporary society, including questions about corporate accountability, sustainability and social justice.”

The project aims to foster new ‘dialogic’ forms of accounting that enable groups such as environmentalists, ethical investors, unions and indigenous communities to co-develop accountings that take account of their own political and value standpoints.

The research will build on Professor Brown’s published work on ‘democratising accounting’.

“We will be drawing on ideas and findings from contemporary political theory and a number of other disciplines to inform our research. Researchers and practitioners in various fields are increasingly recognising the need for more plural approaches in organisations and society, and this work offers valuable lessons for accounting,” says Professor Brown.

“We will also be seeking to develop new theory and practice by working with academics from various disciplines and potential beneficiaries of the research such as NGOs, activists, environmentalists, unions and Māori in a participatory learning and action research group.

“The broader aim of the research is to contribute to national and overseas initiatives on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, participatory development and governance at community, organisational and civil society levels. Multi-perspectival approaches to accounting have the potential to inform discussion and debate in all these areas.”

Professor Brown will work on the project with Professor Jesse Dillard, a leading international researcher in critical accounting and social and environmental accounting and two PhD researchers—Sendirella George and Farzana Tanima. Professor Trevor Hopper, one of the School of Accounting and Commercial Law’s Adjunct Professors and a ‘founding father’ of critical accounting, will also act as an advisor on the project. Several members of the School’s Philosophy, Ethics and Social Theory and Social and Environmental Accounting research interest groups are also working on closely related projects and will participate in the action research group.

The Marsden Fund is regarded as a hallmark of research excellence and supports innovative and ambitious projects at the international cutting edge of their disciplines. The fund is administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand on behalf of the government.

Professor Brown's grant is one of nine standard grants awarded to Victoria University of Wellington academics across the Faculties of Science, Humanities and Social Sciences, Architecture and Design, Commerce and Administration, Education, and Engineering this year, and one of seven awarded by the Social Sciences panel for the whole of New Zealand.

Ministry of Education

$78,806 - Corbett S (Project Leader), Starkey, L, Bondy A Professional Support Materials: Intellectual Property and Technology Education.

This inter disciplinary research project, involving SACL and VUW College of Education staff, is designed to support and enhance the GIF-Technology Education Initiative by providing teachers and students with information about intellectual property rights relevant to the technology curriculum. The ultimate aim of the research is to ensure that New Zealand students are equipped to participate in the knowledge society not only able to respect others' intellectual property rights, but, more importantly, aware of how to protect their own ideas and how they can legitimately make use of others' intellectual property. Students and their teachers will also be alerted to some of the more contentious issues in 21st century IP, many of which are the subject of ongoing international critique and debate. Intellectual property concepts will be presented in a way that is relevant to students' own experiences and that will explain how an awareness of intellectual property rights is crucial for any business enterprise.

Publications to date

Corbett S, Starkey, L, Bondy, A. "Intellectual property for Technology Teachers" at techlink.

Corbett S, "Using the Techlink Resource: Why IP is relevant to Technology Education", t-News, No 36, May 2009, 13-14.

Starkey, L., Corbett, S,, Bondy, A., & Davison, S. "Intellectual property: What do teachers and students know?" International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 2009

New Zealand Law Foundation

2010-2011 ($26,000) NZ Law Foundation Grant Study of Digitisation Practices in NZ Cultural Institutions and the Influence of Copyright Law on those Practices. The aim of this research project is to propose a framework for copyright law that will permit the ongoing and effective digital archiving of New Zealand’s cultural heritage for future generations. Although the potential benefits offered by digital technologies for archiving cultural entities are already being explored by cultural institutions throughout the world, in many countries, including New Zealand, archiving law is struggling to keep up with technology. In addition, technological development is so rapid that although new possibilities for archival best practice are available, the law that would permit their application is not in place. The new challenge for legislatures is to develop appropriate cultural property laws for digital culture and for digital preservation. The project includes analysis of interviews with staff at 7 cultural institutions regarding digitisation practices, literature review and analysis of overseas practices, and recommendations for NZ legislation.

Final report

“Archiving our culture in a digital environment: copyright law and digitisation practices in cultural heritage institutions” December 2011, New Zealand Law Foundation Report, Wellington, 48 pages.

Tindall Foundation

National Volunteer Managers Survey (Dr Carolyn Cordery (SACL) and Dr Karen Smith (VMS) as part of the Volunteer Management Research Programme) conducted an online survey of New Zealand's volunteer managers/coordinators across the community, voluntary sector and public sectors. The research profiled managers, identified their challenges and training needs, and was benchmarked against overseas data. By identifying training needs and career paths, and developing a database of volunteer management professionals, this will build Third Sector capacity and support managers and volunteers.