CPA Australia’s move to widen the entry
requirements for its professional qualification has come under fire
from an organisation representing the heads of accounting schools
from more than 25 universities around Australia and New
Zealand.

The minimum qualification to join CPA
Australia as an associate member and begin studying for the CPA
designation has traditionally been an undergraduate accounting
degree accredited by CPA Australia or an accredited postgraduate
conversion course for graduates with non-accounting degrees.

But CPA Australia has now developed an
entry-level programme consisting of eight foundation units. Once
these units have been completed, a candidate gains associate
membership and can attempt the CPA programme even if they do not
have a degree.

Market demand

CPA Australia says the new programme
responds to market demands and simply widens the pathway into the
profession.

CPA Australia executive general manager of
international development Paul Wappett explained the requirements
to achieve the CPA designation remain the same.

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“We have given flexibility back to the
students as to how they learn,” he said. “We had previously been
quite proscriptive about the types of education we would accept
before someone was eligible to start on our professional level
programme.

“What we are saying now is ‘we are going to
test your competency and knowledge and if it is sufficient, no
matter how you obtained it, whether it be through education at an
institution or on the job, we would like you to have the
opportunity to become a professionally qualified CPA’.”

The Accounting and Finance Association of
Australia and New Zealand (Afaanz) has said the changes are
“regrettable and ill-advised”.

The Australia president of Afaanz, Keryn
Chalmers, said the changes would result in the watering down of
entry requirements.

“Hypothetically, what can happen in their
programme is you can take someone directly from school, they can go
and do the eight foundation units, and then they can enter the CPA
programme,” Chalmers said.

She is also concerned about devaluing
accounting degrees.

“We are concerned we are losing the
educational value of an accounting degree and what it means as a
profession. We hope we are not going down the path too much of
simply training,” she added.

Chalmers said CPA Australia has every right to
change its entry pathways, but that some things that were
unacceptable in the past are now acceptable.

For example, while the new entry pathway will
recognise knowledge obtained on the job, Chalmers said CPA
Australia has never allowed universities to recognise prior
learning as part of accredited accountancy degrees.

While CPA Australia is quick to point out that
before candidates gain the CPA designation they still need to
achieve a degree, Chalmers questions whether that makes sense to
candidates.

“You have got someone who has potentially done
the foundation unit, then they have gone and done what [CPA
Australia is] calling the professional unit… then at the end they
have to go back and get a degree.

“To me it seems the wrong way around,” she
said.

Chalmers said the accounting school heads are
also concerned about the “seemingly untenable position faced by CPA
Australia as a result of these changes”.

As an accrediting body, CPA Australia passes
judgment on the structure and quality of accounting degrees offered
by higher education providers. Yet now it will also be the examiner
of a competing product, she explained.

“They will now be judging higher education
entry requirements into the profession while offering their own
educational entry pathway that is an alternative to undergraduate
degrees offered at our universities,” she said.

Wappett said CPA Australia is currently
looking at its accreditation model and hopes to be able to address
the concerns Afaanz has in that regard.