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Relevance of ACCA / CIMA/ ACA syllabus

Given the increasing diligence being required of businesses, and the the potential penalties for failing to comply, - there is a huge risk factor emerging with young talent being brought into both practice and industry.  

For a blog being written i'd be interested in hearing views about how Members view the relevancy of ACCA, CIMA, ACA etc and in particular the syllabus' covered during studies, and how relevant they are to the modern workplace.  I don't necessarily mean the technical skills to be able to consolidate a set of accounts for example, but, in preparing the students for entry into the workplace whereby a mistake can readily result in very significant consequences.

Given that ACCA et al all offer slightly differing focus in their syllabi, would Members have any preference between them when it comes to understanding which scheme generates finalists that are most likely to find the transition from student to Member the easiest, and the hardest.

As the Associations review the syllabus on a regular basis, and they are likely to have changed significantly since many readers of this site qualified, (I'm not disparaging the current quality of the syllabus), - is there a trend in the way that the syllabus' are changing, and is this for the furtherance of the profession at large?

All comments genuinely appreciated - I will feed back with the final blog link

Thanks

Stephen

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By taxguru
03rd Jun 2012 11:25

In terms of technical content within the syllabus, ACCA one looks better. Even the proposed Canadian CPA is following a very similar structure. CIMA one seems to be lacking in technical depth and their practising members do feel the gap.

The compliance function at workplace these days is driven by technology, so may be the initial training should include sufficient exposure to various software products e.g. most of the HMRC/companies house filings are online these days. As for practical training, CIMA's recent change is welcome - you simply don't qualify until you have finished training, practically eliminating this 'passed finalists' list. Maybe it's time to go back to the old 'chartered accountancy' days when you trained only through practices!!

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04th Jun 2012 09:25

It was mostly irrelevant for me

I qualified as ACCA 24 years ago, so my experience is well out of date, but I suspect things have changed little as I do keep up to date with the ACCA syllabus.  I've also more recently taught AAT at our local college so I'.m not completely out of touch.  My comments are only based on accountancy practice and not industry.

24 years ago, the ACCA exams were pretty much irrelevant to real life accountancy practice.  In real life, I did VAT returns and payrolls for example, yet these were barely covered within the ACCA syllabus.  It was the time when capital transfer tax had just been scrapped and replaced by inheritance tax, but the tax exam, set a few months after CTT was scrapped, still contained a question about the defunct CTT - that says it all really - common sense would have dictated not to have a CTT/IHT question that year!  We had to study kimball tags, mainframes, magnetic tapes and low/high programming code for the IT/Systems paper, at a time when in reality, we were using desktop computers with floppy disks. Then all the topics that were never going to be used in real life - the kind of complex technical matters that were only for the biggest companies (i.e. listed PLCs etc) that the vast majority of ACCA accountants will never see in practice.  Even when statutory audit requiriement was removed from the vast majority of small/medium limited companies, it remained on the syllabus for far too long even though the vast majority of students would never get near an audit.  It was like a parallel universe - far too geared towards the top end of the profession, i.e. those dealing with PLCs, multinationals, etc..  At the end of the day, the exams were a test of your ability to study - it was certainly not to give you an ability to work in the real world.  The real world training happened on the job.  Looking back over my real working life, very little of what I had to learn to pass the exams had ever been used.

For practising accountants, I thought AAT was far better as it was a more "grounded" qualification full of relevant training of the basics to build the candidate into a well rounded, functional accounting assistant that would be able to make a damn good attempt at most of the work done in the typical small accountancy practice. 

For the average local accountancy practice, I just don't see any need to have a CCAB qualified accountant.  I think AAT is a high enough standard.  This is because the typical client of the typical small practice is a small, simple, business or individual, with relatively straight forward affairs.  The complex issues often arising, such as zero rated VAT on land & buildings - common if you have tradesmen clients, isn't examined anyway so that kind of knowledge is learned on the job, regardless of which accountancy body you studied for.

However, if you aspire to becoming a partner in KPMG or the finance director of a blue chip, then a CCAB qualification is pretty much essential to get a foot in the door.

 

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