For and against: Still a quality qualification

The learning materials for the Advanced Stage of the new ACA hit the streets in the first week of August and students will take the new exams for the first time in November.

The launch of the new ACA follows an extensive consultation period where the ICAEW worked in conjunction with training bodies of all sizes to understand fully what they want from qualified ACAs. The development of the new qualification has transformed the way we work with students and training firms, and we have greatly enhanced our student support programme.

In the wake of the vote by members against the proposals for electives in June 1999, one of our major client firms, Ernst &Young, unfortunately decided to transfer all its new recruits to a competitor body.

Our biggest client, PricewaterhouseCoopers, also put a substantial minority of its students through the same route, hence the drop in student numbers reported here. We consider the drop to be temporary, and rather than focus narrowly on this, we are concerned with the bigger picture in terms of recruitment into the profession as a whole over the next few years.

Students of the ICAEW qualify with excellent salary prospects and a choice of prestigious career paths. In addition, ACA students do enviably well in exams and the pass rate for the final admitting exam this summer topped 80%; the highest-ever since it was introduced in 1994. Our students are of the highest calibre, and in turn, we are dedicated to ensuring they have the competitive edge.

We will continue to adapt the qualification to meet the demands of the market, and believe ‘keeping a finger on the pulse’ in this way ensures that our qualification evolves with the business environment.

The integrated business-based qualification we have developed provides both the specific and generic skills that will continue to be attractive to the best graduates and their employers, and in relaunching the ACA, we have come up with a world-leading qualification for the business advisers of the future.

The new ACA, the AAT fast track and ground-breaking ICAEW/PwC/Newcastle University degree, demonstrate our flexibility and commitment to reacting quickly to market demands. Our innovative approach of placing technical issues within a realistic business context will enable our members to maintain their position as the primary professional business advisers in the UK and elsewhere.

  • Brian Chiplin is director of education and training at the ICAEW

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