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A Doctoral candidate at the University of Chester has won a prestigious bursary award for her study into how accountants stretch the boundaries of their careers, adapting and flexing into new roles and circumstances, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Carol Mclachlan, a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Business and Management, applied for the highly competitive bursary from the Chartered Accountants’ Company, a charitable arm of the professional body, of which she has been a member for over 20 years. Her studies focus on career boundaries and how they must be adaptable in the new world of work.

As one of the largest professional bodies with over 150,000 members, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), through its livery company, provides a small number of highly selective academic bursaries to those deemed to be undertaking cutting-edge doctoral research in accounting-related topics.

In successfully satisfying the robust peer review and panel interrogation to achieve the award, Carol says the bursary will be used to “support the unique inter-disciplinary focus of my research, drawing on perspectives from the academic and practice literature across the business and management spectrum, in other words, truly stretching the boundaries!”

Carol describes her research as follows: “In identifying the professional context as one of uncertainty and chaos, I was foreshadowing an event such as the current pandemic, so my research is proving timely. The profession, and indeed business in general, was already poised to deep dive into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, driven by the smart digitalisation. My study focuses on career boundaries, and how they, can, and often must, be more elastic in the new world of work.”

Carol’s principal PhD supervisor, Professor Tony Wall, Head of the International Centre for Thriving at the University of Chester, said: “Carol’s research digs deep to explore what exactly enables accountants to adapt, and adapt quickly, to new circumstances – which is particularly important to us all right now.”

However, Carol’s research is not just following a long-standing personal and professional curiosity, but is now being used to support her fellow accountants dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

Carol is currently hosting a series of international ICAEW webinars to support members as they grapple with a new reality, culminating in a valuable opportunity to share her research via a panel discussion on ‘Stretching your boundaries and develop a portfolio that will deliver results’.

Professor Kurt Allman, the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business and Management, where Carol’s research is located, said: “Working with the professions is a key component of our research. Adaptation is the new normal, and so this research will provide insight into other key areas also, and the benefits are wide-reaching”.

The University’s International Centre for Thriving is a global scale collaboration between business, arts, health, and education to deliver sustainable transformation. It advises, consults, and co-creates organisational development and change programmes to build resilience, wellbeing, and to deliver sustainable change.

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