This article was first published in the October 2017 UK edition of Accounting and Business magazine.

Ethics have a real place in the real world. This is why, from 31 October 2017, ACCA students will be required to consider ethical behaviour, in the context of other professional skills, in a new module. It provides a unique blend of real-world simulated examples to ensure professional accountants remain at the forefront of business leadership.

The move follows feedback from employers, who have told ACCA what they expect of those who hold the ACCA Qualification. They look for an unparalleled combination of technical, ethical and professional skills. These are the skills that all professional accountants need today, and the new module will ensure future professionals are well equipped going forward.

The new module – Ethics and Professional Skills – builds on ACCA’s pioneering Professional Ethics module. It will continue to develop the vitally important concepts of ethical behaviour and judgment, while complementing broader skills such as communications, innovation, analysis, evaluation and commercial acumen that employers have come to expect of ACCA members. These are the skills that allow professional accountants to make an immediate impact in the workplace.

The new module ensures that ethics still have their place at the heart of our qualification. Through developing a high standard of ethical and professional behaviour, alongside the strategic and technical expertise acquired through passing the exams, ACCA professional accountants will be able to make an immediate impact in their workplace.

Students will usually complete the module between finishing their Applied Knowledge exams and starting their Strategic Professional exams, as the module has also been designed to introduce the skills now being assessed as part of the Strategic Professional exams.

In addition, the module will be freely available, as part of members’ subscriptions, to those interested in taking it as part of their continuing professional development (CPD) – it will count towards your CPD requirement.

The module has seven interactive units (see box). Using real-world scenarios, each unit highlights a set of challenges that professionals are likely to face in the workplace. Participants will be asked to provide solutions and ways of delivering these to ensure the best possible outcome for the business. They will receive a certificate once they complete the module.

This new module is an important part of the innovations that ACCA is introducing to its qualification. They are market-leading and designed to fuel the demand for ACCA members. Importantly, they will safeguard the reputation the ACCA designation has for being the mark of a professional that is trained to the highest global standards and who has the relevant blend of skills and real-world focus that employers need now and into the future.

These innovations are a result of the research carried out for Professional accountants – the future, which defines the skills and qualities required for the future (see box). These are skills that successful professional accountants acquire and develop throughout their working lives. They are skills that are demanded by employers across all sectors. And they will create the strategic and forward-thinking professionals needed to drive organisations and business.

ACCA is building these skills and qualities into the qualification through the Ethics and Professional Skills modules and the Strategic Professional exams, which will be introduced in 2018.  

These changes ensure that students working towards membership are equipped with the skills that are needed and able to support businesses in reaching their goals.

Members who have already completed the current ethics requirements of the ACCA Qualification will still be able to find real value in the new module, which will help them stay ahead of the curve. ACCA also offers a variety of other free CPD resources on ethics and professional skills – see box.

All developments in the ACCA Qualification, including the new module, have the full backing of regulators and continue to meet the rigorous standards set by the International Federation of Accountants.

In this way, ACCA members can continue to be proud of their membership, knowing we are protecting all that it stands for. And ACCA is able to have the utmost confidence in its members as they seek to maintain the highest ethical and professional standards wherever they are in the real world.

Judith Bennett, ACCA’s director of professional qualifications