Is all really well at ACCA?

September 3, 1999

'This week, leading academics and practitioners accused ACCA of "completely undermining accountancy education", with a deal to offer "instant" degrees in association with Oxford Brookes University.

Claims by professional accountancy body the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants that it "protects the public interest by promoting and maintaining the highest standards of professional competence and conduct" are wearing thin among many of its 150,000 students and 66,000 fee-paying members.

ACCA appointed Hull University senior lecturer Moyra Kedslie as its deputy president this summer, just over a year after she resigned as head of Hull's School of Accounting, Business and Finance. Her resignation from Hull came during an internal report into a management "crisis" at the school. The report recommended an essential move towards "more open, inclusive management".

It recommended that management should be reformed to "ensure there is full disclosure of information about school resources and their management and that those responsible for managing the school are fully accountable to its members." Dr Kedslie's obsession with "income generating", the report said, "has dominated planning and policy formulation... to the detriment of proper and careful consideration of its longer-term academic aims and objectives... Furthermore, we are far from convinced that all the income-generating activities in which the school has become engaged represent the best use of the school's or university's resources."

Dr Kedslie was out of the country this week, but ACCA chief executive Anthea Rose said the council was "fully behind" her and was "fully aware of her position at Hull". Ms Rose also pointed out that at the time of Dr Kedslie's departure, Hull praised her "enthusiasm and commitment".

Dr Kedslie's appointment is not the only controversy facing ACCA:

This week, leading academics and practitioners accused ACCA of "completely undermining accountancy education", with a deal to offer "instant" degrees in association with Oxford Brookes University. The deal allows students sitting ACCA's vocational qualifications to pick up a Brookes accounting BSc part-way through their course with no additional work. A lobby group of accountancy academics and practitioners, the Association of Accountancy and Business Affairs, has condemned the partnership as "a cynical marketing ploy" and a "two-for-the-price-of-one qualification".

Simon Williams, Brookes's business school head, said the university will keep close control of curriculum design and quality assurance of the ACCA courses and would ensure the course, to be run from next year, will be "equivalent to a degree". ACCA's Ms Rose said she thought the deal was "the best thing since sliced bread" and was based on "rigorous assessment". She said: "It will open up the university world to much bigger groups of students who would otherwise not have the opportunities. The academic world can be a bit conservative."

In May, ACCA's council sacked its incoming president, Ray Gardiner, on the day he was due to take office. Mr Gardiner said at the time he was pushed out because he had questioned ACCA's corporate governance, and a council member resigned in protest at his treatment. Ms Rose confirmed Mr Gardiner had been subject to a vote of no confidence. She said: "It was an issue of corporate governance and it was the right thing to do in the public interest."

In July 1997, ACCA privately admitted that one of its examiners had plagiarised old exam papers of the Malaysian Association of Certified Public Accountants, in breach of his contract. He was quickly sacked.

ACCA's dissident members have accused it of wasteful spending on foreign trips for partners of council members. Ms Rose said foreign trips for spouses were "normal practice" for an organisation with members from 140 countries. She said: "We are a public body in the public eye and we are no different to other major organisations."

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