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University accreditation paves the way for more Professional Accountants (SA)

South African Institute of Professional Accountants

26 March 2014

University accreditation paves the way for more Professional Accountants (SA)

SAIPA – the South African Institute for Professional Accountants – believes its moves to accredit tertiary-level accounting courses at nine of the country’s top universities* will help steer more graduates, more quickly, into a career in the accounting profession.

“We believe this will help relieve the serious shortage of financial professionals in South Africa as the route to becoming a Professional Accountant (SA) is now more clearly defined,” says Yogini Sigamoney, Training Manager from SAIPA.

SAIPA research shows that many students, who are unaware of the diversity of options that their courses offer them in the accounting field, tend either to drop out or pursue other directions upon graduating. “However, with the assurance that their degree paves the way towards becoming not just an accountant but a professional in the marketplace, amongst a host of other options, we’re confident that this will result in more entrants to our field.”

According to the Fasset SETA’s Scarce Skills Plan, more than 1400 general trainee accountants are immediately needed in the marketplace; almost three times the number of external auditors, for which the academic pathway is far more onerous.

“That’s why we’re also going to such great lengths to bring greater awareness of what it takes to become a Professional Accountant (SA) and the options that choosing this alternative route to becoming an accounting professional opens up to graduates,” she says.

In terms of the Companies Act, accounting officers may only sign financial statements if they belong to a controlling body recognized by SARS, such as SAIPA. “Now, by having completed a SAIPA-accredited degree at one of nine universities countrywide, graduates will already be well on the way to becoming professionals in the accounting field.”

Becoming a Professional Accountant (SA)

In order to become a Professional Accountant (SA), an individual must fulfil the necessary academic requirements by studying at an accredited institution, completing a learnership (three years practical training) and passing the SAIPA Professional Evaluation (PE) entrance exam. Without having studied at an accredited university, students will have to do competency testing to demonstrate their knowledge.

“Therefore, by simply enrolling at an accredited institution, the would-be Professional Accountant (SA) is already so much further down the track than someone from a non-accredited stream,” she says.

The rigorous accreditation process sees SAIPA scrutinising the universities’ syllabi to ensure that they are geared towards producing graduates of the highest calibre. SAIPA’s formal accreditation process, which started in 2012, continues this year with several more courses at tertiary institutions set to be added to the list of accredited universities.

“Also, as members of the International Federation of Accountants, we work closely with most South African universities on what they’re teaching to make sure that the subject matter is in line with international standards and demands on the profession.”

Awareness of the Professional Accountant (SA)

Creating greater awareness of what it means to become a Professional Accountant (SA) and the benefits of membership of a professional body like SAIPA is also a key objective.

“We follow a two-pronged approach: attending career exhibitions where we introduce students to the field on a one-on-one basis, and secondly, partnering with accounting firms who address groups of students, explaining to them exactly how these learnerships work.”

“Armed with this knowledge about this alternative pathway to entering into the world of work as a professional accountant, we’re already beginning to see greater interest amongst students in becoming  a Professional Accountant (SA),” concludes Sigamoney. “This is just the start!”

* SAIPA-Accredited Universities and Courses

University of Fort Hare ( UFH)

Bcom General Accounting

North-West University (NWU)

Bcom Financial Accounting

University of Pretoria (UP)

Bcom Financial Management Sciences

University of the Western Cape (UWC)

Bcom Accounting

University of the Witwatersrand (WITS)

Bcom Accounting

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU)

BCom (Accounting for Chartered Accountants) BCom (General Accounting) BTech

UNISA

Bcom Financial Accounting

University of Johannesburg

Bcom Accounting

Cape Peninsula University of Technology

BTech Taxation