It’s a matter of principles – English ICA training

The English ICA’s Education & Training Green Paper has given rise tot a rehash of existing rules, it’s a chance to correct in-built flaws, says Peter Anderson. much deliberation and many column inches, particularly on the issue of pre-qualification specialisations.

Many people have asked whether the proposed examination of principles at the professional stage, followed by a choice of two electives prior to qualification, simply represents a reworking of the institute’s existing core and options’.

The proposed examination is different to the ‘core of yore’, however, in that it seeks to cover key principles in the traditional areas of accounting and audit, tax and business finance and management.

As a tutor, I have on many occasions witnessed students crushed by the weight of detail in their examinations. If we provide a good grounding in the basics and filter out irrelevant detail, the student stands a sporting chance of understanding the material rather than having to rely on rote learning. A solid foundation would thus be established for a programme of lifelong learning.

The examination of principles would also make the qualification more attractive to overseas students, who are at present deterred from the English ICA examinations by the degree of irrelevant detail and excessive UK bias.

There are also concerns over the pre-qualification specialisation, on the grounds that students will not have the breadth of knowledge required to ply their trade, and may limit future career options by choosing (or having them chosen for them) specific papers.

First, the electives are not pre-qualification specialisation in the traditional sense. The ‘trusted business adviser’ bits will have been well addressed at the professional stage, so the trainee is building on relevant areas to a higher level than covered in English ICA examinations. A profound understanding of two electives, coupled with the new business management stage is at least as challenging as the current final examination, and as comprehensive.

Second, students do not place themselves at a disadvantage careerwise by choosing specific electives. They will all be worthy of the ACA badge.

As an employer of 100 ACAs, I will welcome suitable newly qualifieds into any division within ATC that they choose to join, irrespective of whether their electives are directly relevant to their future careers.

Wherever they work, students will need to get to grips with the peculiar ways of their employer. Electives may be more helpful in some areas, but they will never be a hindrance in others.

Peter Anderson is MD of ATC, and a member of the Education and Training Directorate

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