PracticeAuditDo we need a global qualification?

Do we need a global qualification?

Time for a global accountancy qualification? No, says Anthea Rose - ACCA's exams are already marked to an international standard. John Collier, however, believes portable qualifications are a must.

ACCA’s global brand is effective, writes Anthea Rose

The purpose of the ill-fated scheme for a global credential was apparently to create a new group of knowledge professionals who would ‘realise value through the strategic integration of knowledge’.

The plans envisaged the creation of a new international association to oversee delivery of the qualification by national bodies on a franchise basis.

The only surprising aspect about the scheme was that it progressed as far as it did before it was rejected by AICPA’s membership, which eventually saw through the hype and realised the proposal was deeply flawed.

UK and South African accountancy bodies had already withdrawn, apparently due to concerns about the scheme’s North American flavour and the fact that it would be a vehicle to export American values, the low level of support for it among international accountancy firms, potential competition from a new brand and very high marketing costs.

ACCA never sought to be involved in the global credential for two reasons.

Firstly, ACCA is already the de facto global professional qualification; it has in place the necessary infrastructure and contacts in individual countries to deliver that qualification.

And, secondly, ACCA has made sure its syllabus is up-to-date and relevant so that it will equip future members with the necessary broad range of skills which professional accountants and finance people need.

This is now supplemented with our new offer of an MBA linked to the ACCA qualification. It is clear that there is a place for this in the marketplace – the first intake is fully subscribed, with students from Africa, Asia, the UK and the US.

Our students know that whether they sit our examinations in Birmingham or Beijing, Johannesburg or Jamaica, papers are marked to the same global standard. Students in non-English speaking locations tell us that they want to take our examinations in English because they recognise the added value, which this will bring to their careers.

Mutual recognition of qualifications around the globe is moving very slowly. This is because of problems of agreeing substantial equivalence.

Furthermore, mutual recognition by professional bodies does not guarantee recognition by national authorities.

By contrast, the ACCA model of a global brand, which is adjusted to local circumstances, has demonstrated its effectiveness and is delivering accounting and business skills to a consistent standard all around the world.Anthea Rose is ACCA chief executive

Make qualifications more portable, writes John Collier

The AICPA membership have now voted decisively against a specific proposition for the development of a new global qualification. We participated in the early stages of this programme, but withdrew in the autumn of 2000 recognising that the proposals were unlikely to be appropriate for our members.

Our qualification already has strong global recognition and its status is known and acknowledged in boardrooms, in financial markets and at government tables around the world.

The new ACA has now completed its first full cycle of examinations with great success as measured both by the excellent student performance in the new style assessments and by the reaction of the market-place. We have moved the footprint of the qualification significantly whist retaining the strong technical base, but linked much more closely to the real issues facing decision-makers.

Business is global and digital technology opens organisations of all sizes to the same market forces. We are finding the portability of qualifications and understanding is vital for individuals as well and firms. The issues for businesses of all shapes and sizes have significant common elements wherever they are located.

Capital is highly mobile and is attaching increasing importance to information which is consistent and reliable. The organisations that train our students are increasingly looking to exploit this commonality in their training programmes across countries.

What should the major features of the global qualifications be? Firstly, it must meet the requirements of the global accounting profession for staff who can move easily around the world with minimal regulatory and retraining constraints.

The development of international accounting standards makes this a much more realistic goal. And second it must be something that genuinely excites potential students; and equips them with the skills and expertise they need for their working lives. And third it must have global recognition as the leading business finance qualification.

The qualifications of accountancy professional bodies across the world are moving in the same direction as ours. There is a great opportunity for us to build on the strengths of what we already have in working with others to maintain and enhance the value, relevance and portability of the qualification in a global context.

John Collier is secretary general of the ICAEW

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