Leader – Vote for the future, not the past

Chartered accountancy is at the crossroads. As you read these words, thousands of members of the English ICA are voting on the institute’s education and training reforms. Campaigners on both sides have spent months arguing about the details of the ICA’s proposal for new ‘electives’ which would require students to cover specialist areas as well their core training.

It would be easy to get lost in the details. Easy, but professionally fatal.

Critics of the education and training directorate’s proposals argue that electives will destroy the principle that accountants need to be all-rounders.

The same argument was once advanced on behalf of doctors. But that was back in the days of Dr Finlay and his Casebook. Like tweedy doctors, tweedy accountants are almost a thing of the past.

In the fast-changing world of modern business only the adaptable prosper.

Chartered accountants can no longer count on the ‘premium qualification’ to see off increasing competition. The threat to raise the level of audit exemption will destroy another chunk of guaranteed, if poorly paid, work.

And now the Big Five, which train almost two-thirds of all English ICA students, have warned they will stop training unless the institute modernises its syllabus. The Scots ICA waits in the wings, electives in hand.

So there is much more at stake than subjects on an exam paper. This vote will decide the future of the English ICA itself.

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