Extraordinary professor profile: Prof Lisa Marriott

Posted on May 10, 2021

Prof Lisa Marriott, Professor of Taxation at the School of Accounting and Commercial Law at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand commenced her three-year term as extraordinary professor at the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences (EMS) on 1 August 2019.
Teaching taxation at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, her research interests include social justice and inequality. She has a particular interest in the behavioural impact of taxation.
Currently supervising the PhD of an EMS faculty member, Prof Marriott considers herself very lucky to be part of the Department of Taxation at UP. Read more about her field of specialisation, her view of the future of education and advice to students who are considering post-graduate education.
Q: What does your position as extraordinary professor at EMS entail? 
A: Under ‘usual’ situations I would visit the Department during the year to provide research support. This might take the form of presenting seminars, having individual sessions with Faculty academic staff about research, or participating in research symposia.
Q: What are the most rewarding aspects of this position? 
A: I consider myself very lucky to be part of the Department of Taxation at UP.  They are an extremely talented group of academics, and I thoroughly enjoy all my interactions with them. I currently supervise the PhD of one of the Faculty members and this is highly rewarding.
Q: What is your field of specialisation? 
A: Taxation. 
Q: How do you see the future of tertiary education, given both the global impact of COVID-19 and ongoing technological advancements?
A: I believe universities have done an exceptional job in pivoting their delivery to ensure quality teaching and learning can be maintained with the challenges of COVID-19. As much as the pandemic has forced us to do things differently, it has had the advantage of accelerating our uptake of digital technology. I think both academics and students have benefited from this.
Q: Which specific skills – as opposed to mastering the subject matter to obtain a degree – do you believe will be in high demand in the future world of work? 
A: In my field, data analytic capacity and the ability to work with big data will be crucial. While these are newer skills, the traditional competencies of being able to think critically, communicating well to a range of audiences, and working well with others will always be in demand.  
Q: To what extent will universities be able to equip students with these skills?
A: I believe universities understand the need to be customer (and employer) focused. We do not help either future employers or our current students if we do not equip students with skills that employers require.
Q: Going forward, where would you rank the need for research in tertiary education?
A: I think research is essential in tertiary education. By encouraging our students to engage in research, we are providing them with skills that will benefit them throughout their career, regardless of whether that career is in academia, the private sector, the public sector or in non-profits. 
Doing research allows individuals to develop intellectual curiosity, to question what they see around them and to develop skills to help them understand problems relevant to their discipline. It also provides more practical and transferable skills, such as project management, data analysis and written communication. 
Q: In your opinion, what are the big research questions in your subject field that need to be investigated? 
A: In my view, the big research question facing the tax discipline is inequality. Globally, inequality is increasing. One of the key mechanisms to address inequality is the tax system. But, there are contrasting pressures in needing to efficiently collect revenue for redistribution, while balancing equity concerns.
Moreover, there are strong ideological positions on who should pay taxes, and what governments should fund. This can be effectively described as a ‘wicked problem’ – one where there are multiple causes, constant changes and no single right solution.
Q: Your advice to students who are considering post-graduate university education in the next decade or two?
A: In my view, there is no such thing as wasted education. Education has multiple benefits, including the potential to improve social mobility, develop personally in fulfilling ways and contribute to society.  As our lives become more complex, we will need more sophisticated solutions for our problems and it will only be through education that we will achieve the ability to generate these solutions.   
Published by Nonkululeko Kubeka Moyo

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