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All change at ACCA

Alan Hatfield outlines changes to the qualification designed to keep it both relevant and fit for purpose

November 2016

At ACCA we know what a milestone it is when, after years of dedicated study, you finally get to write those four letters after your name.
Speaking with many of those who have qualified over the years, I’ve learned that one of the things that makes it such a hugely satisfying achievement is just how challenging it is. The great US inventor Thomas Edison said that there are three great essentials key to achieving anything worthwhile. The first is hard work; the second, sticking to it; the third is good, old-fashioned common sense. He might have been referring to inventing the light bulb when he said this, but he could just as easily have been talking about achieving his ACCA membership!
It’s the rigour of the ACCA qualification that makes it such a milestone to have passed, and it’s also what makes it so attractive to employers. They know when they see those letters after your name that they are hiring someone who knows what it takes to achieve something worthwhile.
In order to make sure that the ACCA qualification continues to challenge you – the ACCA members of the future – we are constantly challenging the ACCA qualification itself. To stay relevant, it simply cannot stand still, and its continued evolution is what keeps it relevant. That’s why through our history we’ve stayed ahead of the curve in developing the next generation of professional accountants with the skills the world needs.
The latest stage of that evolution began back in 2014 when we kicked off a huge research project involving members, employers, education providers and regulators around the world. The findings of this work, which we called ‘Professional accountants – the future’, has already supported many significant innovations to the ACCA qualification that are already in place. For example, our innovative Knowledge exams that test early workplace application and our new Skills exams that use real-world technology and challenges. Or, equally, our revamped practical experience requirements and our market-leading integrated BSc and MSc degrees.
Now we are ready to unveil the latest developments to the final level of the ACCA qualification – namely, the new Strategic Professional level and our new Ethics and Professional Skills module.
With the Strategic Professional level, we’re setting a new standard by fully integrating deep, broad and relevant technical expertise with ethics and professional skills. Because every element has a real-world focus, our students will be prepared to handle the challenges they’ll face in the workplace. The result is strategic, forward-thinking professionals equipped with the unique blend of skills needed to hit the ground running – and add immediate value to their employers. The Strategic Professional level is benchmarked at Master’s level on a number of education frameworks.
Part of this evolution is the Strategic Business Leader – a truly innovative case study. In it, real-world scenarios are used to set challenges that require students to blend technical, professional and ethical skills in the evaluation, synthesis and presentation of their responses. Mirroring the workplace, students must present their answers to the standard employers expect from future business professionals.
Secondly, we have introduced Strategic Business Reporting, where we take the qualification’s current holistic view of reporting to a whole new level. The underpinning principles of corporate reporting remain, but these are enhanced by giving students the skills needed to confidently speak the language of business and explain reports to a wide variety of stakeholders.
You’ll be glad to know that our Options exams remain available, offering the unique opportunity to specialise in areas of greatest relevance to a chosen sector or career path. The advanced specialist expertise gained builds on the broad, cross-sector relevant, technical foundation that all ACCA students acquire.
The ACCA qualification already includes the world’s first Master’s degree integrated with a professional accountancy qualification. Delivered in partnership with the University of London, students can follow the Master’s route while completing their Strategic Professional exams or acquire the Master’s degree post-ACCA Qualification.
With our new Ethics and Professional Skills module, we will be the first to deliver a unique module that focuses on developing the complete range of professional skills employers have told us they need.
Building on our pioneering Professional Ethics module, it continues to develop the vitally important ethical behaviour and judgment, complementing this with the broader communications, commercial, innovation, analysis and evaluation skills vital for career success.
Edison invented the light bulb because he looked at the way things were done and challenged himself to find a better way. We like to think everyone in the ACCA family – students, members, staff and the ACCA qualification itself, thinks in exactly the same way.
• Alan Hatfield is executive director of strategy and development at ACCA

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