Opinion – Questionable forecasting sees students blown out.

For the 78 graduates whose job offers from PricewaterhouseCoopers have been cancelled, the next few months will be anxious ones.

They will less concerned with PwC’s local problems and more worried about how the ‘current economic climate’ that the firm blamed for its decision will affect their own employability.

PwC has pledged some cash for the university leaders by way of compensation.

But for many it will be cold comfort. Who knows what opportunities they might have turned down in favour of a training with such a large and prestigious firm?

The decision may not just affect their choice of employer – it could lead them to question their career.

All eyes will now be trained on the other large firms. Will they follow suit? In that regard, the next few months could tell us as much about the financial state of PwC as it does about the health of UK plc.

But there is another question. How could PwC, which prides itself on offering good business planning advice, have got its own plans so wrong?

So what is an accountant?

An odd question to pose, you might think, and a fairly easy one to answer.

But perhaps not. Seven accountancy firms from Montrose in Scotland have kicked off this debate after calling on the government to restrict use of the word ‘accountancy’ to only those qualified with the six main British and Irish accountancy bodies.

If the Accountancy Age letters page, opposite, is anything to go by, their call to arms has struck a chord with accountants across the UK.

Competition from someone who has not undertaken the same rigorous training, and not subject to the same regulatory regime if things go wrong, is not only bad news for the profession, it is also bad news for the consumer.

But, even if the government was minded to show any sympathy for the argument, the practicalities of sorting out what exactly accountants are could lead to years of debate.

With six bodies included in the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies, and at least the same again outside its umbrella, any such debate threatens to turn into a turf war.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of this, it does highlight a major weakness of having so many rival professional bodies covering one sector.

Maybe this is the issue that the profession should address first.

After all, you have to identify who your enemy is before you can wage war against him.

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