Academic journal article Australasian Accounting Business & Finance Journal

Changes to a CA Programme - Practitioners' Perspectives

Academic journal article Australasian Accounting Business & Finance Journal

Changes to a CA Programme - Practitioners' Perspectives

Article excerpt

Introduction

Globally, there are two main routes prospective accountants take to become a member of a professional body: the university route and the vocational route. The University route in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States is similar, whilst the Vocational route provides a pathway for students -who decide to go from school directly into employment, rather than going to university" (Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland 2010). This vocational route is generally available in various forms in member countries of the Global Accounting Alliance. The driver behind the vocational route is the opening up of Chartered Accountant (CA) qualifications to school leavers as well as graduates. For example the vocational route in England places a focus on -on-the-job training with established firms", with less emphasis on -formal education" (-Requirements for British Chartered Accountants" 1992, p. 15). Merits of the vocational system include students receiving a salary whilst working, as well as their ability to make use of practical skills whilst learning them (-Requirements for British Chartered Accountants", 1992). However, the system such as that undertaken by the ICA has been criticised, on the grounds that it results in a less qualified accountant (-Requirements for British Chartered Accountants" 1992).

This study sets out to examine practitioners' perceptions of proposed changes to the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA) professional qualifying programme. NZICA will introduce four new modules that on initial view duplicate the technical skills currently taught within tertiary institutions. These modules may remove the incentive for trainee accountants to undertake tertiary education prior to qualifying CA. The implications of this are significant. Firstly, accounting is currently recognised as a profession within New Zealand. However, if educational requirements are reduced and as a result the level of professional status of NZICA decreases, public trust in accounting may fall. Secondly, if accountants are no longer required to hold tertiary qualifications in accounting, employees may favour potential tertiary qualified employees.

This paper has two main research objectives. First, to investigate the importance of accounting tertiary education as a requirement of entry for an accounting body; and second, to examine the views of senior accounting partners and practitioners regarding the new directions being taken by NZICA. The paper is structured as follows. The purpose of tertiary accounting education is examined. Thereafter the New Zealand accounting profession is reviewed. This included an examination of the current academic and professional requirements as well as detailing the proposed academic and professional requirements. The method used in the study is then detailed before the results are discussed. The findings are then discussed and the paper concluded.

Purpose of accounting tertiary education

The International Federation of Accountants noted that -the goal of accounting education and experience is to produce competent professional accountants" (International Federation of Accountants Education Committee 2003, p. 3). Competence is defined by the International Federation of Accountants Education Committee (1998, p. 1) to be -the ability to perform the tasks and roles expected of a professional accountant, both newly qualified and experienced, to the standard expected by employers and the general public. Flood and Wilson (2008, p. 226) agree, noting that -programmes need to develop a diverse range of skills so that students will ultimately be competent professionals throughout their careers and will have the capacity to adapt to change in every aspect of their professional lives". Furthermore, the Accounting Education Change Commission (AECC) (1990, p. 2) noted that:

...accounting programs should prepare students to become professional accountants, not to be professional accountants at the time of entry to the profession. …

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