Digital boom opens up world of opportunity for finance students

ACCA works with universities to shape the future of higher education

Universities and professional bodies are working together to offer the chance of studying finance to more people than ever before.

Digital revolution has opened up enormous opportunities for those who have traditionally been excluded from higher education, with colleges and universities adapting to offer more flexible courses, remote tuition and life-long learning.

Lucia Real-Martin, executive director – markets for ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), said that the nature of higher education is shifting in the wake of technological change.

‘This digital revolution brings opportunity, because students are not tied to a single learning location as before,’ she said. 

‘Technology annihilates distance, and it brings higher education within reach of entire populations who have been locked out of the best education because of an accident of geography.’

Ms Real-Martin was speaking to an audience of academics, higher education professionals and employers at ACCA’s Global Virtual University Conference.

Her comments came in the wake of ACCA research based on the views of deputy vice-chancellors; business school deans; professors; department heads; accreditation bodies and trade groups from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Morocco, India, Ireland, Nigeria, Norway, South Africa, the UK and the USA.

‘Students’ emphasis is on flexibility; on opportunities to develop over time and to learn new skills; there is a thirst for life-long learning; they are not so hung up on a university experience which lasts three or four years, and ends with a degree,’ said Ms Real-Martin. 

‘They want skills which will help them adapt in a fast-changing world, not just a qualification or a diploma to hang on a wall. They are also more concerned about the social impact of the work they will do.

‘Employers crave graduates who are curious and adaptable; men and women who can solve problems; employees with a desire to build their knowledge and capacity throughout their career. Their priority isn’t to fill specific vacancies. They want people who will grow with their business, and help their business to grow.’

Ms Real-Martin vowed that ACCA would continue to build partnerships with universities to shape the future of finance education based on the needs of students and employers.

‘Partnerships are priceless for all of us,’ she said. 

‘All our best work is based on great partnerships and they are essential to the future of learning. 

‘The way is wide open for us to cultivate richer partnerships between professional institutions, business and higher education, and ACCA is ambitious to serve as an ideal partner for universities to thrive in the new environment.

‘We are eager and ready to find new ways of working together – educationally; in research, and commercially.’

Alan Hatfield, ACCA executive director – content, quality and innovation, closed the conference by telling the audience: ‘This has been a great celebration of our global partnerships; of our common aim to prepare the finance professionals of the future; of our success in opening up the chance of a useful, rewarding and meaningful career to countless thousands of students; of our dedication to promote the values of learning, and of our deep respect for the power of education to change the world.’

Helen Brand, ACCA’s chief executive, welcomed guests to the event, which was themed Partnerships for an Inclusive Future.

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About ACCA

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global professional body for professional accountants.

We’re a thriving global community of 233,000 members and 536,000 future members based in 178 countries and regions, who work across a wide range of sectors and industries. We uphold he highest professional and ethical values.

We offer everyone everywhere the opportunity to experience a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. Our qualifications and learning opportunities develop strategic business leaders, forward-thinking professionals with the financial, business and digital expertise essential for the creation of sustainable organisations and flourishing societies.

Since 1904, being a force for public good has been embedded in our purpose. We believe that accountancy is a cornerstone profession of society and is vital helping economies, organisations and individuals to grow and prosper. It does this by creating robust trusted financial and business management, combating corruption, ensuring organisations are managed ethically, driving sustainability, and providing rewarding career opportunities.

And through our cutting-edge research, we lead the profession by answering today’s questions and preparing for the future. We’re a not-for-profit organisation. Find out more at