Peter Wyman – The end of ACA as we know it?

The ACA is not the qualification it was. In the past three years, it has seen significant change to its structure. Now we are finalising a complete overhaul of the syllabus.

Why are we doing this to a qualification which has served us so well and has been regarded as the leading accountancy qualification throughout this century? And, in particular, why are we proposing the introduction of ‘elective’ papers when some members are so opposed to the introduction of any choice in our exams?

Inevitably, the answers are complex, since the issues themselves are complex. But fundamentally, the reason for all the changes is to secure the future value of the ACA qualification.

None of us particularly relishes change, yet it is all around us, and the pace of change in business is quickening all the time. If you do not keep up you may suddenly find your world-beating product has become obsolete.

We cannot risk this happening to the ACA.

Most of the changes we have already introduced have been widely welcomed.

This is perhaps not surprising, since they have been based on careful analysis of market research and detailed consultation. But the question of ‘electives’ provokes strong reactions; there are many who are passionate supporters, believing they represent the way forward, while others believe equally strongly that they represent the end of the ACA as we know it.

Everything that all chartered accountants need to know at the point of qualification can be – and is – contained in the proposed new syllabus which will be mandatory for all students. Electives sit on top of the compulsory syllabus – hence their name. They will tie together the work experience and the examination system in a way not seen for 25 years.

Electives will not be forced on members. Rather, members will be asked at the institute’s agm to choose between a qualification route which includes electives, and one without electives. In my view, though, the best chance to protect the value of the ACA lies in preserving all that is relevant in today’s qualification while embracing change, including electives, for the future.

Peter Wyman is chairman of the English ICA’s Education & Training Directorate.

Related reading