Fifteen minutes before the lecture, most students are already seated in the auditorium of the Van der Goot building. Although the auditorium seats all 600 students, only 150 are present due to a train strike. On the podium is a table, with a computer projecting the PowerPoint presentation onto the large screen. The battery in the clock above the door needs replacing, as it reads 2:30 instead of 10:45.

Lecture: Accounting (Friday 11 a.m. in M1-12 (Oxford))

Lecturer: Jeroen Suijs

Topic: How to do accounting when your debtors have made a mess of things (by returning products or not paying)

Attendees: First-year Economics and Fiscal Economics students. 150 students in the lecture theatre, the rest had to watch online due to a train strike.

Reason to listen: Learn how accounting works so that you can correctly interpret and use financial information. Or as student Wesley put it: “With this knowledge, you can earn tons of money in the future.”

Processing returns in the balance sheet

The voices of chattering students resound through the auditorium. Lecturer Jeroen Suijs waits patiently until everyone is seated, then closes the door and commences the lecture. The topic is sales bookkeeping, and how to account for the possibility that some products sold will be returned.

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Image credit: Pauline Wiersema

Using lots of emojis, the lecturer divides the process into three stages. In Stage 1, we see emojis of clothing items and a handshake: products are sold to the value of EUR 400. Underneath is the balance sheet. “We enter ‘Debtors’ on the debit side of the balance, and ‘Sales revenue’ on the credit side – both should show 400 euros”, he explains.

In Stage 2, the debtor sends some of the stock back (the emojis show clothing, a van and a sad face). How should this be entered into the balance sheet? “Imagine that the returned products total 100 euros. We enter ‘Sales returns’ on the debit side and ‘Debtors’ on the credit side, both showing 100 euros. That allows the revenue to be corrected in Stage 3, where we have ‘Cash’ and ‘Debtors’ with 300 in the balance.”

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Noise in the back

Suijs’ explanations are interrupted by chattering in the rear of the auditorium. “Could you quieten down please?” the lecturer asks. “You might think you’re talking quietly, but we can all hear you.” Some students look apologetic, while trying to stifle their laughter.

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Image credit: Pauline Wiersema

The lecturer continues his explanation. “Though the method above is perfectly fine”, he says, “during Stage 1 it doesn’t provide a realistic picture of the revenue generated.” So what many businesses do is to allow for possible returns as soon as a transaction is made, by reserving an amount on the balance sheet for the expected returns. “So instead of just ‘Debtors’ and ‘Sales revenue’, we also put ‘Expected returns’ into the balance sheet. Here, for example, we see 400 euros for ‘Debtors’ (debit), 250 euros for ‘Sales revenue’ (credit) and 150 euros for ‘Expected returns’ (credit).” The lecturer looks around. “Clear? Are there any questions?”

Mad about accounting

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Image credit: Pauline Wiersema

Julia isn’t bothered by a few students interrupting the lecture with their chatter. She’s in the third row, where she can concentrate properly on what the lecturer is saying. “I love this lecture, because everything’s so structured”, she says. “And I just love figures and bookkeeping. I keep my own ledger, where I record all of my personal income and expenditure.” She doesn’t use an app. “No, I find it therapeutic to keep a tally in my notebook the old-fashioned way.”

Jane doesn’t keep a record of her expenses, but she has no problem doing it as an exercise for the subject. “The lecturer explains how to do it. The lectures are also interactive, he asks questions to keep people engaged.” Her fellow student Sam agrees. “The lecture is well-structured, the lecturer explains everything step by step, so he repeats a lot while adding new material. He also does a lot of checks to make sure everything’s clear.” Accounting is not difficult, these students think. Jane says: “But perhaps we enjoy it because we understand it and have prepared properly. I don’t know if it would be as fun if you didn’t get it.”

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Image credit: Pauline Wiersema

Getting to work

There are several students in the rear of the auditorium who seem less concerned with the lecture, as they stare at their phones with earpods in. One student in a flannel shirt was willing to talk with EM, but preferred to remain anonymous so as ‘not to get a reputation as a troublemaker.’ “Honestly, I find these lectures really boring. Accounting just isn’t that appealing.” He admits that he hasn’t yet taken the time to fully dive into the material. When asked how he plans to catch up, he laughs: “I guess I’ll just have to work hard, won’t I? I’ll get to it properly this weekend. If I pass, I’ll drop by your office personally to let you know.”

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Editor Feba Sukmana and illustrator Pauline Wiersema follow a lecture every month. Together they describe and depict how education is given, what happens in the lecture hall and what students think of the lecture.

EM is looking for the best, funniest or most interesting lectures at the EUR. Do you want us to visit your lecturer? Tip us at [email protected] .