Philip Brown AM


Philip Brown holds an important and unique place within the annals of Australian accounting. As co-author of the research paper that redefined the course of academic accounting research in the last forty years he inadvertently set the research agendas and directions for a legion of academics that followed. The paper, titled An Empirical Evaluation of Accounting Income Numbers, had such a profound impact on accounting research that the American Accounting Association, in 1986 selected it as the inaugural Seminal Contribution to the Accounting Literature. In making this award the association noted that 'no other paper has been cited as often or has played so important a role in the development of accounting research during the past thirty years'. The paper also earned, in 1996, the Outstanding Contribution to the Accounting Research Literature Award from the Accounting Association of Australia and New Zealand. Inevitably this work placed Philip Brown at the forefront of the academic discipline and the accounting research activity that ensued. Building on the respect earned from this seminal work, he has used his reputation and profile for the advancement of accounting and management education in Australia ever since. As the inaugural foundation Director and Professor of Management at the Australian Graduate School of Management, he pioneered the introduction of world-class executive education in this country. An abiding commitment to a continuing research agenda and supervision of graduate students has kept him at the cutting-edge of accounting and accounting research globally. In recognition of his accomplishments, Philip Brown has been rewarded with a Fellowship of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. He is also a recipient of Life Membership of the Accounting and Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand and holds the title of Emeritus Professor in the University of Western Australia.

The Australian Accounting Hall of Fame honours Philip Brown as an innovator, educator, mentor and scholar of the highest order.


Philip started school at Riverstone in western Sydney with a short stint at Summer Hill in his final two years of primary education proceeding to Canterbury Boys High School where he scored an average pass in his Leaving Certificate. He then worked as a junior clerk in the accounting department of British Motor Corporation at Zetland. Advised to seek tertiary qualifications he thought he should enrol for a commerce degree at the University of NSW. His family counselled caution as they felt university was beyond him; Philip's brother had commented that it was only for smart people.

Despite this advice, Philip enrolled as a part-time student in the Faculty of Commerce at University of New South Wales gaining the highest pass in the course. This level of achievement was maintained throughout his degree leading inevitably to an honours year, graduating with First Class Honours and taking a University Medal.

After graduation Philip tutored at University of New South Wales, received a Fulbright Scholarship to study in the USA heading to the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. He completed his MBA in 1963 finishing top of the class. Selected for the PhD program Philip studied accounting, finance and economics. A two-year period as an Instructor and Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago followed. During this period he met Ray Ball with whom he wrote a seminal paper that defined the course of accounting research for the next forty years. The paper is entitled An Empirical Evaluation of Accounting Income Numbers, was initially rejected for publication, but eventually published by the Journal of Accounting Research in 1968. Philip is quoted as saying "We had looked at the relevance of earnings data and the timeliness of announcements. These two ideas of timeliness and relevance have been central in the accounting research literature ever since." The paper later received the American Accounting Association's inaugural award for Seminal Contributions to the Accounting Literature. The research has revolutionised our understanding of the impact of corporate disclosure on share prices and in so doing laid the foundation for much of the modern accounting literature, particularly our understanding of how earnings and other disclosures relate to share prices and capital markets. The paper continues to be pertinent to the study of many modern issues with timely corporate disclosure over forty years later.

Rather than pursue a career in the United States, Philip returned to Australia as a Reader in Accounting at the University of Western Australia (July, 1968 – June, 1970). His wife Edith remembers the hours spent helping students with their research, particularly guiding data collection and developing computing skills. When he was appointed as a Professor of Accounting in the University of Western Australia in July 1970 he was one of the youngest appointments to this level at the University. In this position he helped establish the University's MBA course, which was one of the first in Australia.

In 1974, Philip moved to Sydney to help establish the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM). As inaugural Foundation Director he introduced world-class MBA and MPA (public administration) programs to develop the skills of Australia's future leaders. During his AGSM days Philip championed the development of Australian data in financial accounting research. He saw the need for Australian share price data to be systematically collected and made available to researchers spending a great deal of time personally collecting data and providing programming support for these databases. The existence of these databases as a high quality resource for researchers is often taken for granted today but it was the foresight scholars with foresight like Philip who saw the need and acted accordingly.

Philip's wife Edith remembers this as a very busy and stressful period. He remained in this position for five years but could not continue due to continuing doubts about his health. A return to Perth was rewarded with a chair being offered by the University of Western Australia in 1979. At this time he was honoured with a highly acclaimed Fellowship of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.

In 1990 Philip was a member of a Commonwealth Government review into accounting in higher education. The report that he co-authored considered the suitability of the education provided in meeting the requirements of the community for qualified accountants and the standards expected by the accounting profession. It was the largest investigation of accounting education undertaken in this country and lead to significant structural changes within the sector.

Philip continued his research with a particular pride in helping emerging scholars. He was co-recipient of the inaugural Accounting Association of Australia and New Zealand's Outstanding Contribution to the Accounting Research Literature Award in 1996. Life Membership of the association was bestowed in 2000.

Although "retired" in 2001 his contributions were further recognised by his appointment as an Emeritus Professor by the University of Western Australia. Far from slowing down, after a visit to the University of Lancaster where he mentored young staff and post graduate students, Philip arranged fractional appointments at both the University of Western Australia and the University of New South Wales. During this period Philip continued to work with young staff and post graduate students on research of a high standard. He continues this work to this day.