ACCA records top member growth. By Dan Martin

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ACCA has seen the biggest growth in membership of any of the main accountancy bodies, new research reveals.

Between 2000 and 2005, ACCA increased its UK and Irish membership from 45,392 to 59,059, a 30.1% rise. ICAI was next recording 26.1% growth followed by CIMA on 25.7% and ICAS which saw members rise by 10.9%. Membership of the ICAEW improved by 7.4% during the five year period.

The figures, in a report by the Professional Oversight Board (POB), showed the average yearly growth for ACCA was 5.4% compared to the ICAEW's 1.4%.

On a global basis, ACCA recorded an even higher growth with membership improving from 79,027 to 109,588, a 38.7% rise.

ACCA also came out top in attracting female members. At 31 December 2005, 40% of ACCA's membership were women. This compared to 29% of ICAI members, 2...

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20th Nov 2006 18:54

To A Sceptic
Just an educated guess but the FRC figures only include those ICAEW students in registered training contracts (note 3 page 22). I'd expect the ICAEW annual repert figure to include those students registered with the Institute but outside of a training contract. Students are allowed to sit the 6 professional stage papers outside of a training contract, and many in fact do. No great conspiracy there really.

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By quayer
17th Nov 2006 16:52

Prem Sikka
Prem should consider resigning from the organisation or working to help it. ACCA has improved and even the other bodies recognised it as a threat. Prof you have a choice either be a good member and help or go and join the others.

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16th Nov 2006 18:30

Dan, May I enquire
Your apology is noted and accepted. In view of the comments on your 26/10/2006 piece on Michael Izza - do you think it is time for you to ask more and tougher questions of him?

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17th Nov 2006 18:45

Thank you John
Thank you for for your further thoughts. Just repeating them does not advance the debate. Perhaps, now you might wish to comment on the issues.

Next you would be telling anyone who disagrees with a government to leave the country or shut up. Very democractic and open-minded!!

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20th Nov 2006 19:31

You are doubtless correct (but they could have explained the basis).

Patently, the 'correct' figure for the POB report was known but 'they' chose to change the basis so that the reduction in ICAEW student numbers over the five year period appeared to be 3%: it was, in fact, more like 17%.

It is, is it not, established policy to restate at least the immediately previous comparative. The POB report is thus an outright lie.

The fact of the matter is that the other five institutes grew their student numbers by 17%, 39%, 44%, 50% and 60%. A 17% drop is sufficent cause for shame and derision; but the attempt to hide it just adds another layer of mockery to the fiasco that is now the ICAEW.

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20th Nov 2006 20:15

James, James, James
Again I do not dispute much of what you say.

However, whilst the POB is obviously incompetent (though not for this reason) the ICAEW is dishonest as well.

On any of the three methods (consistently applied) the ICAEW drop over the five years must surely be of the order of 20%.

I do not actually think that it makes the slightest sense to have a student/member ratio of 2.4 (ACCA) or 1.3 (CIMA) as that just lowers exam standards. See also, the age profiles for their students. Even so, the ICAEW has been, and still is, a walking disaster.

Do you think both Anstee and Izza have been honest and can you honestly say they have done the ICAEW proud?

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20th Nov 2006 19:42

I agree that the previous years in the FRC report should have been restated, but I'm sure that that's just incompetence on the part of whoever was responsible for putting the numbers together at the FRC. Someone very junior I'd imagine as I don't expect this survey ranked very highly on their list of priorities!

Having said that the change of basis was sensible as the ACCA numbers include affiliates. The CIMA figures also include passed finalists. The ACCA figure also includes CAT students (the ACCA equivalent of AAT), a new technician qualification launced in recent years. Hence the increase in ACCA students is not really an accurate figure either.

I'm of the opinion that surveys like this almost never provide any useful information, and any sort of analysis of the figures is generally a fruitless exercise.

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20th Nov 2006 18:14

ICAEW should have more red faces than a Rubik's Cube
ICAEW Student numbers:

At 31/12/2005;
12,311 per ICAEW Annual Report (basis not detailed),
10,406 per current POB Report (on new basis per their note 4),
8,906 estimated by this writer (on old POB basis).
No attempt has been made to compare 2000 - 2004 POB figures with the respective ICAEW Reports.

Also per the POB Report;
10,727 at 31/12/2000,
8,910 at 31/12/2004.

If some 3,000 students qualify annually it is pretty well guaranteed that the 17% drop in the intervening years shown immediately above was about the same (or more) in the five years ended 31/12/2005.

Izza, Anstee and Morris must explain this apparent duplicity and incompetence because this question will not go away.

Else, there is surely one of twenty or thirty Council members who is prepared to stand up, be counted and reply?

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By quayer
17th Nov 2006 18:58

Prem Sikka
Prem, you have every right as a paid up member to criticise the body, but the way you go about it make one wonder if you have a personal problem with them.

You taught me Audit and I remember how you encouraged us to be objective in our approach. Where has all those principles gone to?

If you wish ACCA to change for the better then I believe you can do it more contructively than you are doing now.

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By Anonymous
17th Nov 2006 18:20

Yes Prem, you have every right to be critical! but please avoid your childish insincere commentary. As a professor you ought to be more responsible as you undoubtedly have a sphere of influence, although it may not expire out of Essex!

If you feel ACCA is a body so undemocratic why not do the dignified thing and deregister! The truth of the matter is my dear sir, you may be trying to gain cheap publicity and respect, It may work but only for a short term. In the longer term people will realise who you really are along with you personal vendetta.

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17th Nov 2006 18:31

Robert Quaye
How interesting!! Stalinists are still around. If you don't support the prevailing regime and whatever it does then you must resign, be banished, silenced or sent into exile. What else do you have in mind, Mr. Quaye? I shall continue to exercise my democratic right to speak and raise inconvenient matters and encourage debate. Just look at any walk of life and people enjoy many rights today only because someone, somewhere refused to go along with the conventional social gods. Yet some of the beneficiaries of those freedoms and discourses can only think about silencing alternative voices.

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17th Nov 2006 19:19

Dear Robert
Thank you for your note. Being objective does not mean agreeing with or supporting the prevailing orthodoxies. Neither does it mean that anyone who does not worship the dominant views somehow needs to be silenced. I have certainly never taught that to anyone.

How do you think change comes about? It does not only always come from working from within. It can come from a variety of spaces, including from the outside. How do you criticise government policies?

It is always so easy to silence alternative voices by claiming that the critics are 'personal', have a 'vendetta', are not 'constructive' and then proceed to banish them to negative spaces. All this then excuses any engagement in debates and more energy is then spent labelling people. So please engage with the issues.

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17th Nov 2006 16:53

John McDonald
Now that John McDonald has got that personal stuff off his chest perhaps he would care to engage in serious debate assuming that he can rise above his childish rants. Not much evidence of “research" and "free mind" in his comments! If you can support your allegation of “personal grievances" please feel free to provide evidence.

John McDonald says “Perhaps you failed in your bid to get to the executive level". Well, for your information I have never applied for any executive position at ACCA. Yes, I stood for council elections for a number of times but was not elected. By coincidence ACCA seems to doing some of the things that I advocated though there is still a long way to go. I shall continue to be 'critical' not only of the Association but also of other institutional structures as without criticism organisations stagnate.

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20th Nov 2006 11:57

Prem Sikka
I have read the abuse thrown at Prem Sikka by some people who have commented here.

It is, of course, well known that Prem and I know each other. I enjoy his friendship, and his scholarly work. But most of all, I enjoy his approach to life. He is an unreasonable man. I use that term as defined by George Bernard Shaw who said:

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

Prem has contributed enormously to progress in this profession. He has proved prescient in so many areas people have simply stopped counting. The reason is simple. Unlike most commentators he is not the slave of some defunct economist.

Richard Murphy

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17th Nov 2006 22:39

Tut Tut
I am disappointed with the way this debate is heading. We have a distinguished professor of accounting with professional experience spanning over three decades resorting to tactics usually deployed by teenagers in Yahoo chat rooms.

Should it come as a surprise that the quality of graduates coming out of universities is deteriorating when you have loonies like this in charge. Should you not be serving your employers and students by stimulating a thought provoking and constructive dialogue.

You original comment about the ACCA losing ground and being the most vulnerable of all the accountancy bodies is nothing but mere conjecture. You have failed to provide adequate proof behind your lame assertions. You say that the leadership rarely answers any questions but you failed to mention Allen Blewitt ACCA CEO taking members questions in live broadcasts. Have you put any questions to him?

By adding silly comments you are not only degrading yourself but also the good name of your university, proving the widely held view that Prem Sikka is a miscreant, a renegade. This view is further conformed by your ACCA bashing. You failed to mention any other of the UK or world bodies in any of your comments confirming the fact that you indeed have a personal vendetta against the ACCA.

Should your employers and students not be better served by you spending time on developing the syllabus rather than taking out your vengeance against a body that rises in stature with your each and every negative comment.

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18th Nov 2006 09:01

Thank you John
John, you have surpassed yourself. You are very kind in that you have only blamed me for the failures of the entire education system. You forgot about the Iraq war, Enron and WorldCom!
If my comments are merely conjecture that you are most welcome to demolish them. I have cited evidence about the recent developments in Hong Kong (please see HKICPA website) and the fact is that ACCA is virtually absent from India. Try disproving it. Some evidence about lack of recognition in Canada and US is provided from ACCA council minutes (see ). The rest is well known. Feel free to ask ACCA officials to confirm or deny it.

For your benefit I have attended virtually every ACCA AGM for the last 20 years and I always ask questions. These are put to the CEO and the officeholders. They are recorded. So there is an official record. The questions are rarely answered. The same applies to questions from a handful of other members as well. Perhaps, with a change of CEO ACCA will enter a new era.

It is surprising that first you wish to silence me and than say that you want me to discuss the affairs of other accountancy bodies as well. Just for the record, in a number of papers, I have looked at the policies of a number of accountancy bodies. Some of these are on the internet. Please feel free to challenge the evidence cited within them.

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18th Nov 2006 23:13

Yet more ICAEW lies, damned lies, and statistics
POB state (repeated above) that ICAEW student numbers fell over the 5 year period by 3%.

However, Note 4 to Table 7 says that the ICAEW 2005 figure [and for 2005 only] includes students who have passed the final exam but have not been admitted to membership.

I estimate that number as being 1,500 and thus the fall to be 17% (not 3%).

Well done; Druckman, Morris, Anstee and Izza et al. You have, patently, fooled some of the people all of the time and most of the people some of the time.

I only had a quick glance at the report and it seems to me:
(1) At Table 7, for 2002 the details do not crosscast to the published total.
(2) At Chart 14, the bars for CIMA are surely rubbish.
(3) Generally; Year to = upcoming, Year ended = past, At = As at.

Personally, I found the Student Age Distribution Chart fascinating.

NEWS UPDATE 19 November:
Ken Frost MA FCA is Awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Institute of Professional Financial Managers (IPFM).

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19th Nov 2006 19:07

Troubling Time for the ICAEW
After reading through the pages of statistical analysis presented by the 'Key Facts and Trends in the Accountancy Profession' as presented in:

it can now be clearly seen why the ICAEW has been so desperately trying to merge with other chartered accountancy bodies and indeed, if CIMA is to be believed, even trying to poach the membership of its rivals.

What would be interesting to know is whether this long term decline in the fortunes of the Institute has been brought about through strategic blunders or alternately through a deep seated arrogance that its position as the 'gold standard qualification' could be maintained without moving with the times.

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By Anonymous
17th Nov 2006 13:39

Comon Professor
Professor Sikka you appear to address your personal grievances with ACCA on this forum. Perhaps you failed in your bid to get to the executive level. The facts remain that ACCA is the fastest growing body in the world. It is by far the most democratic and cohesive of the UK bodies.

Rather than cry sour grapes and address your personal issues on independent forums you should do some research with a free mind!

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By Anonymous
17th Nov 2006 03:46

ACCA Excel ICAEW in Membership Growth
It is anticipated that ACCA membership base will exceed ICAEW before year 2008 to become Europe biggest accountancy body. What ICAEW could do to retrench its current position as the big brother in its field of profession?

I guess if the plan to give back-door access to CIMA, CIPFA and ACCA failed the other options would be simplying the reciprocity procedures to all GAA bodies for direct membership admission into ICAEW via abolishing the aptitude tests requirements. ICAEW could then pitch up the membership in par with ACCA.

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22nd Nov 2006 15:04

Surely not
The comment made .......

'I'm certain that the ACCA and CIMA exams are perceived as, and are, so much easier'

I find difficult to belive and would also welcome some feed back on this point.

Why is the writer certain?

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16th Nov 2006 18:02

Ask yourself why
ICAEW have made really major mistakes and ICAS haven't. I'm certain that the ACCA and CIMA exams are perceived as, and are, so much easier - so, coupled with international availability, they attract many more students.

PS The ACCA member figures above are surely mistyped?

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By dan06
16th Nov 2006 18:12

The ACCA figures I reported were incorrect. Many apologies. I have now corrected them.

Dan Martin
Business Editor

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17th Nov 2006 09:34

Size isn't everything
ACCA may be the fastest growing but there are some stark realities.

It is unlikely to displace the established chartered bodies from 'public practice. Indeed, the number of ACCA members conducting audit is declining. It is unlikely to displace CIMA from industry/commerce leadership or CIPFA from the public sector lead, which would probably be swallowed by ICAEW.

ACCA has been singularly unsuccessful in influencing UK/EU policies, as evidenced by the small company audit debate. It has made a lot of investment to bolster its role as regulator (RSB, RPB) but we are just one more major scandal (Enron) away from that entire edifice being blown away. There is little evidence to show that it is shaking anything in other countries. Indeed, ACCA qualifications are not recognised in US, Canada, Australia and South Africa. After recent changes, ACCA members in Hong Kong (and China) will need to sit additional exams to practice. This dilutes the value of ACCA qualification.

Recent problems in Hong Kong show that ACCA is not a major player in China and it is not making much headway in India, two of the emerging powerhouses. The international expansion route is open to all accountancy bodies and is bound to produce messy skirmishes. There is no guarantee that ACCA can continue to have things in its own way. In any case, international organisations find it difficult to represent a diverse membership. Besides, any country which cannot run its own accountancy profession is sending a very negative message about its capabilities to the rest of the world. Globalisation also encourages a particular kind of nationalism.

Overall, I think ACCA is probably the most vulnerable of all the accountancy bodies. The shame is that there is no opportunity to discuss these issues. The ACCA AGM is just a sham and leadership rarely answers any questions. There is no opportunity to probe officials.
Its magazine does not publish critical articles. The local district society agenda is strictly controlled.

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22nd Nov 2006 16:27

Easier Exams?
I think this is bunkum and am convinced they are much of a muchness.

Access to ACCA and CIMA is easier in the first place, that is true but beyond that much the same.

If we look at the market, CIMA graduates command a slightly higher salary so you might deduce that their exams are more highly regarded.

Personally I am not interested in growth. UK accountants are by far the best paid in the world and I think that has alot to do with the institutes

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22nd Nov 2006 13:24

A Sceptic
This was not an attack on your comment.

I would like to know if this view is held by others, especially those with experience of all the qualification processes.

I would be especially interested in Prem Sikka's view given his comments.

Kind regards

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21st Nov 2006 17:01

Can anyone respond to this comment?
"A Sceptic, 16 November 2006 @ 18:02 PM
Ask yourself why
ICAEW have made really major mistakes and ICAS haven't. I'm certain that the ACCA and CIMA exams are perceived as, and are, so much easier - so, coupled with international availability, they attract many more students."

Is this a widely held perception and is it true?

I assume the best people to comment are those who teach/mark all three.

Certainly when I was an auditor I saw no qualitative proof of the above statement either inside practice or at clients.

In fact I have seen draft accounts from a member of an ICAEW technical committee which had more flaws than ones I've had from unqualified bookkeepers.

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21st Nov 2006 17:45

Of course there are thousands of Chartered (ICAEW) Accountants who are thick by almost any standards.

You should, however, read what was written and think a bit harder as well.

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27th Nov 2006 13:28

Dear Paul
Thank you for your answer - exactly what I wanted.

Any more from other similarily experienced persons?

Kind Regards

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