Plan for 'instant' degrees abandoned

July 14, 2000

Oxford Brookes University has pulled out of a deal to award "instant" degrees to part-qualified professional accountancy students without requiring them to do any additional work at university.

Following criticism from academics and practitioners in The THES, the deal has been scrapped in favour of one that gives Oxford Brookes a direct role in student assessment.

Oxford Brookes had agreed to award accountancy BAs to the thousands of students who had passed the first two parts of the three-part Association of Chartered Certified Accountants' (Acca) professional exam. Acca told prospective students in an advert: "You will be able to obtain a professional accountancy qualification and a bachelor degree from a major UK university by following just one course of study... while holding down a full-time job."

The THES reported last September that academics and practitioners had warned the deal would "totally undermine accountancy education", offering "instant" degrees as part of a "cynical marketing ploy".

MP Austin Mitchell said that Oxford Brookes was giving away control of its degrees. And it emerged that Acca had failed to gain recognition for its full qualifications in Canada because "higher level cognitive skills are not tested adequately".

It has now been confirmed that the Oxford Brookes degrees will only be awarded to Acca students on completion of an additional 5,000-word "research and analysis project".

Acca head of student affairs, Mark Protherough, said:"Acca's syllabuses and examination procedures have more than satisfied Oxford Brookes's rigorous quality assurance procedures."

Oxford Brookes business school director, Simon Williams, said: "The programme opens a route into higher education for new groups of students."

Phil Baty

Clarification letter:
Anthea Rose

The agreement with Oxford Brookes University will enable students of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants to obtain BSc degrees in applied accounting. Your article may have given the impression that there was a “deal” with Oxford Brookes, whereby the university would award degrees to part-qualified ACCA students without their being required to do any additional work. I wish to make it absolutely clear that this is not, and has never been, the position.

From the outset, it has always been understood that some form of work on top of the ACCA examinations would be necessary for the award of the Oxford Brookes degree, and that Oxford Brookes would be closely involved in the development of the new ACCA syllabus and assessment procedures. As The THES’s report made clear, the final contract signed by ACCA and Oxford Brookes in May 2000 confirms that the award of a degree will be subject to passing the ACCA examinations together with successful completion of a research and analysis project assessed by the university.

Although the research and analysis project element of the course may not have been in that form from the start of talks with Oxford Brookes, it is not the case that criticism in The THES led to pressure to involve Oxford Brookes in a direct role in student assessment. The research and analysis project is the culmination of a process of discussion and development that started well before any public announcement by ACCA or Oxford Brookes or, indeed, by The THES.

Anthea Rose Chief executive, ACCA.

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