When Arizona State University (ASU) and the University of Prishtina (UP) teamed up in 2007 to transform the teaching of accountancy in Kosovo using a “train the trainer” approach, they never imagined that their partnership would make an impact so soon and so profoundly beyond the walls of academia.

In 2008, five Kosovar students were admitted into the intensive 14-month Master of Accountancy degree program at Arizona State University’s School of Business. The Kosovar students initially experienced difficulties because of low entrance exam scores and being thrust into a new country. However, failure was not an option, and the ASU Melikian Center involved specialists who knew the language and culture of Kosovo to help ease the transition and aid in the educational and professional development of the students.

The support proved to be invaluable when the Kosovar students graduated with honors in May 2009 and returned to Kosovo to help teach the newly established accountancy baccalaureate program.

The curriculum for the new degree was designed after the requirements for the Bachelor of Science degree in accountancy at ASU. UP expanded the curriculum by adding courses in taxation and enterprise process analysis. The new curriculum allows the UP accountancy baccalaureate degree to be more in line with its European and American counterparts.

In its third year, the program has been a success with the first graduating class expected in the spring. The returning Kosovar students have taught hundreds of students at UP and students in the business program at the brand new University of Prizren, which was established during the period of the ASU-UP partnership. The program even garnered the attention of the Society for Certification of Accountants and Auditors of Kosovo (SCAAK). SCAAK certification should assist new baccalaureate graduates in their careers as accountants and auditors, and two of the ASU graduates were hired by SCAAK.

The most unexpected success from the ASU-UP partnership came one year after the Kosovar students’ return.

While retaining their part-time teaching positions at UP and Prizren University, four of the five students formed Arizona Partners, LLC, a state-of-the-art accountancy firm in Prishtina. Among their major new clients is ProCredit Bank, one of the largest banking institutions in Kosovo. Arizona Partners now expects to be able to hire graduates of the University of Prishtina’s new accountancy baccalaureate program—a program that the founders of Arizona Partners helped to design.
          
Project Director and Director of ASU’s Melikian Center Stephen Batalden hopes the creation of this firm will inspire more local entrepreneurs to help Kosovo become more competitive and interconnected to the global economy. He believes because Arizona Partners embodies the spirit of the newly independent state of Kosovo, it holds a special appeal for Kosovar clients.
        
Batalden feels that Kosovo’s continued economic growth is likely as more local businesses are formed. He sees Arizona Partners playing an important role in helping to establish transparency in both the public and private sectors, which would, in turn, make Kosovo more appealing to foreign investors. “Good accountancy assures transparency the new entrepreneurial world thrives on,” he said.

Arben Avdiu, managing partner of Arizona Partners, LLC, reflects on what he's learned from his experience with the ASU-UP partnership.

“We not only want to use our education to assist in training the next generation for transparent, ethical accountancy, we also intend to make an immediate impact on Kosovo and regional business practices.”
 

Kosovo Accounting Firm is a Sign of Hope, Pride and Progress