Four pillars of excellence
- Professional accreditation is a partnership between higher education providers and the accounting profession and is an integral part of a continuous quality improvement process. Therefore, accreditation standards should be dynamic rather than static
- Professional accreditation seeks to ensure graduates are suitable to join an entry-level role in an accounting field by reviewing the education content and process of their qualification
- The accounting profession needs graduates from diverse backgrounds with a range of competencies. It requires all graduates to have capacities for inquiry, abstract logical thinking and critical analysis, in addition to appropriate written and oral communication and interpersonal skills. The profession expects these capacities and skills to be gained and enhanced through accounting as well as general education
- Professional accreditation is based on demonstrated quality of the education experience. Higher education providers must establish the objectives to be achieved, the means to their achievement, evidence that the objectives have been achieved, and mechanisms for continuous review and improvement.
There are four objectives the professional bodies aim to achieve via the professional accreditation of higher education accounting programs.
- Ensure that both the technical and professional competency areas of each program provide essential disciplinary depth for graduates to enter the respective professional programs offered by the professional bodies
- Ensure the existence of a a quality assurance framework for higher education providers who develop and deliver higher education accounting programs
- Encourage innovation in teaching and learning with particular focus on integrating the development of graduates' professional skills
- Advocacy aimed at ensuring the sustainability of accounting education and its response to the evolving needs of the profession.
Each Professional Body will conduct a "desktop" assessment of both the technical and professional competency areas of new higher education programs to determine coverage of the core competency areas required for entry to their respective professional program.
This assessment will refer to the following:
- International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) International Education Standards
- Accreditation standards and required competence areas outlined by the professional bodies (refer to Section 2: Accreditation standards and Section 3: Technical and professional competency areas and learning outcomes).
This technical and professional competency areas assessment will be undertaken confidentially by a representative from each Professional Body with appropriate accounting academic qualifications. The outcome of this assessment will be included in the final accreditation approval recommendation made to each Professional Body's accreditation governance board or committee.
Compliance with the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC)
The professional bodies are members of IFAC, which, through the International Accounting Education Standards Board (IAESB), released a series of International Education Standards (IESs) that all members of IFAC are required to comply with.
IES 2 Initial Professional Development – Technical Competence specifically relates to the competence areas that must be covered in the 'pre-qualification education' of professional accountants, while IES 3 Initial Professional Development – Professional Skills relates to the professional competence area.
In Australia and New Zealand, the 'prequalification education' includes accredited higher education degree programs plus the professional programs, namely the Chartered Accountants Program and the CPA Program.
Relevant IFAC documentation includes:
- The International Education Standards for Professional Accountants
- All international education standards are available on the IFAC website. Note: IESs "are intended to establish the essential elements on which education and training programs, both pre-qualification and post-qualification, for all accountants should be founded. Although they cannot override authoritative local pronouncements, they are essentially prescriptive in nature"
- The Ethics Education Toolkit study guides (and accompanying video program)
- This helps educate and train business and professional people at all levels – while studying at university or working in various areas of business. It can be used for sensitisation to ethics threats, including conflicts, self-interest and intimidation. Ethics threats may result in compromised ethical conduct
These documents are available on the IFAC website.
The professional bodies recognise the existing standards-based quality assurance framework within the Australian and New Zealand higher education system.
Each Professional Body will only accept submissions for programs that have been accredited as higher education programs, at least at a bachelor's degree level, by the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency (TEQSA) or New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). Higher education providers themselves must also be registered as an approved provider with TEQSA or NZQA.
Further, both professional bodies will accept information available through NZQA, TEQSA and other agencies’ reports, and acknowledge the diligence undertaken by bodies such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and the EFMD Quality Improvement System (EQUIS).
Additional quality assurance requirements will apply to those higher education providers that have not undergone such additional accreditation agency reviews (such as AACSB, EQUIS) until such time as the professional bodies are satisfied with the sustainability and quality of their accounting programs.
In the interests of meeting the evolving needs of the accounting profession, the professional bodies continue to encourage this type of innovation. Non-technical skills such as critical thinking, ethical judgment and communication skills are highlighted by the profession as being essential accounting graduate attributes. Each Professional Body will assist wherever possible in providing resource links between academia and the profession in terms of program development and delivery to achieve desired graduate attributes.
While it's not a formal part of the program accreditation process, the professional bodies will use information gained during the process to continue to lobby government to:
- recognise the importance of education services to the Australian and New Zealand economies
- increase real spending on higher education
- provide incentives to attract and retain appropriately qualified people into accounting education.