A view from SA’s accounting body
This is in response to the opinion piece ( Why you should think twice before going for that accounting degree) by economist Johan Fourie which was published on 20 January on Finweek.com
The model used for educating chartered accountants [CAs(SA)] in South Africa was developed over many years and the process was one in which the universities participated fully on a voluntary basis. The academic programme together with the training programme has remained dynamic and responsive to the needs of the economy, seeing many minor and major changes over the years. CAs(SA) have enjoyed an enviable reputation throughout the world for many decades. SA has a very strong accounting and auditing profession (The World Economic Forum has rated SA number one for auditing and financial reporting in its world competitiveness report for the last four years) and there is a strong demand for CAs(SA). We live in a dynamic economic environment, which requires that education and training remain responsive to the needs of the economy – the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) together with the universities ensures that the education, training and assessment processes remain relevant to the needs of SA.
It is our view that many of the ‘allegations’ are unfounded, inaccurate and one sided. While we welcome constructive criticism, it is important that prospective students are not misinformed.
Allow me to elucidate: “Accounting degrees should not be a default option for most of SA’s brightest kids.” South African learners are the ‘new generation’ of youngsters who are smart and they are mostly aware of the career paths that are open to them. It would be grossly erroneous to underestimate their intelligence, especially as far as career choice goes. SAICA uses a targeted marketing strategy to attract talented learners to the profession, given the chronic shortage of chartered accountants. SAICA is competing to secure a share of the limited pool of candidates who achieve over 60% in core maths (only about 15.6% of the 2013 matrics who wrote the maths paper met this requirement).
“Accounting departments in SA are perfectly positioned to deliver students capable of thinking outside the box.” I couldn’t agree more! But there are many challenges being faced in the tertiary environment today, despite academics being passionate about their calling to the academe, their best intentions, well-designed programmes and courses. Academics are torn between fulfilling university requirements for research and having little time to do so because of these other challenges. SAICA agrees that appropriate research and scholarship are critical to a high-performing accounting department and SAICA continues to encourage universities to find ways to meet both objectives.
“The current accounting syllabus does not allow students to develop the skills necessary for top-level managers.” Qualifying as a CA(SA) requires more than just completing four years at university (threeyear undergraduate degree and the postgraduate year that follows). The subsequent three-year training programme that follows the four years of academic study is a period in which prospective CAs(SA) further develop and garner experience that enhances the building blocks that have been developed through the university degree. Further than that, as professionals, CAs(SA) are required to continue to develop and enhance their competence through appropriate continuing professional development relevant to the role they undertake, post qualification. The ability to be a life-long learner is one that is entrenched through the initial sevenyear qualification process.
Qualification as a CA(SA) is not solely related to competence. It is also the culmination of education, training and assessment processes aimed at assessing the combination of intellect, aptitude and the ability to respond to demanding situations. It is clear that the accounting profession is a dynamic one and once these skills are entrenched in the persona