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August 5, 2016

KPMG to Fund Data-Focused Auditing Courses

The drive to close the data science skills gap continues to gain momentum, the latest effort bringing together corporate sponsor KPMG and two leading U.S. universities to create a new graduate degree program in data science and analytics.

The consulting firm said Thursday (Aug. 4) it has enlisted Ohio State University’s Max M. Fisher College of Business and Villanova University’s School of Business to develop master’s degree programs emphasizing data and analytics in accounting. “This program integrates perfectly into KPMG’s [data and analytics] and cognitive capabilities, and starts real action toward meeting our profession’s great demand for talent,” Scott Marcello, KPMG’s vice-chairman for auditing, asserted in a statement.

Along with a focus on data and analytics, KPMG said graduate course work would be supplemented with close interaction with the firm’s audit teams that work with large global companies.

The master’s program kicks off in the fall of 2017. KPMG said it would pay full tuition plus room and board for 50 students. Between semesters, graduate students would work as KPMG audit interns, introducing them to the firm’s proprietary data analytics tools in preparation for the one-year program’s second semester.

Graduates would join KPMG’s audit practice via an advanced entry program, the partners said.

The partnership with KPMG is part of broader efforts at Ohio State, Villanova and other business schools to shape new graduate programs focused generally on data analytics and specifically on closing the data science skills gap in particular industry sectors. The dean of Villanova’s business school hailed the collaboration as extending well beyond traditional initiatives like tuition reimbursement.

“We know of no other program where a company directly funds students’ master’s degrees in accounting analytics and provides a full-time position upon graduation,” stressed Daniel Wright, vice dean of Villanova’s School of Business.

KPMG said it already funds dozens of academic research initiatives for professors along with internships. It plans to expand the auditing data and analytics initiative to other universities.

The auditing graduate program would focus on data analysis and visualization, statistical probability and uncertainty, data mining for business intelligence and detecting fraudulent financial reporting. Reflecting the steady shift toward big data in the financial sector, course work would extend beyond traditional accounting and auditing to include data and analytics technologies along with methodologies that would provide graduates with advanced forensic auditing skills.

Program details and application information are available here.

KPMG is among a growing list of U.S. companies developing new master’s programs in various branches of data science. For example, companies like Amazon, Google, HPE Enterprise, IBM and Microsoft are contributing to big data initiatives along with government contractors like Booz Allen and media companies such as Thomson Reuters. Meanwhile, the National Science Foundation is also funding new graduate programs in data science.

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