The main elements of the ACCA Qualification are summarised in ACCA’s Competency Framework, which shows the qualification under ten areas of competency, from corporate reporting and taxation through to leadership and management, strategy and innovation and audit and assurance.
Alan Hatfield, director of learning at ACCA, explains: 'The qualification changes make ACCA students even more valuable to employers as complete finance professionals, with skills relevant to all sectors.
'The accountancy profession has evolved, in part due to the global economic crisis. Accountants need to be at the forefront to make the most of opportunities and resolve issues as more businesses, SMEs and entrepreneurs turn to them for advice and guidance. In particular, business expects finance professionals to act as strategic advisers, helping organisations to create long-term, sustainable value.
'These changes position ACCA members well to thrive in the emerging business context, to enhance their prospects as professionals and managers, and bring success in their careers.'
Through an on-going process ACCA has made a wide range of changes to qualification content which enhances competency in key areas as follows:
- Professionalism and ethics: the syllabus content has been enhanced around governance, risk and ethics. Content relating to risk management such as risk identification, control and mitigation was recently updated and has been well received by students, members and employers. The syllabus has now been amended to introduce a greater focus on the requirement for more diversity on boards. Looking at the wider role of the accountant as promoting public value and being socially responsible, ACCA has added more around how accountants should describe and assess the environmental effects that economic activity can have in terms of environmental footprint, and other impacts.
- Strategy and innovation: more areas of the paper have been made relevant to the corporate sector and business leadership in terms of forecasting, budgeting, cost management and decision support, including pricing. The latest area to be added is on the role and limitations of cost accounting in strategy development and implementation.
- Financial Management: ACCA has increased content on developments in Islamic Finance. Our enhanced coverage now includes developments in this form of financing in sourcing business expansion and projects, explaining the rationale for its use and identifying its benefits and deficiencies.
- Corporate reporting: Greater coverage is included of the typical contents of a social and environmental report and the usefulness of this information to stakeholders – especially relevant in the light of new guidelines issued by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).
- Sustainable management accounting: ACCA’s performance management exams contain key sections which support businesses in making sustainable and efficient use of resources through strategic planning, control, measurement and performance evaluation.
- Audit and Assurance: More emphasis on professional scepticism has been added to reflect the new IESBA (International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants) code of ethics for professional accountants.
- Case study approach: Additionally, since June 2013, all seven of the ACCA Qualification Professional Level exams use case studies in their assessments worth at least 50 marks, with some worth 60 marks. This provides in-depth practical scenarios for students to work on for these exams, all of which are examined at Master’s degree level. This means that students have to demonstrate skills which are highly sought after by employers, and relevant for advisory and consultancy roles, such as the ability to:
- assimilate and evaluate data
- develop and use ideas
- analyse and make decisions in complex and unstructured situations
- solve problems and make recommendations
- communicate findings to clients, experts and other stakeholders.
Alan Hatfield concludes: 'ACCA has a global process to enable it constantly to refresh the content of the syllabus and ensure that ACCA students develop as fully competent professionals with the latest accounting skills and knowledge required across all sectors. This includes research and insights looking into future developments in the accountancy profession, consultations with employers, regulators and learning experts and skills analysis to ensure we fully understand the changing environment. We also lead the way in examining new global standards and regulation.'