Numbers game

December 2020

Here are some key facts and trends for the accountancy profession, courtesy of the Financial Reporting Council.

A quick snapshot of the figures released in the latest ‘Key Facts and Trends in the Accountancy Profession’ report shows there are over 164,000 students in the UK and Republic of Ireland studying for a professional accountancy qualification, and another 438,632 studying in the rest of the world.

That means the seven accountancy bodies (see below*) have over 600,000 trainees paying student and exam fees.

A drill down into the figures reveals accountancy student numbers in the UK and ROI are dropping at the biggest recruiter. As of the end of 2019, ACCA had 79,937 students signed up on its books. That’s a 2.4% drop in growth compared with 2018. CIMA, with its 48,520 students, managed a slight rise yearon-year of 0.4%.

The big growth in numbers in 2019 came at ICAS and the ICAEW, with rises of 10.7% and 5.7% respectively. ICAS now has 3,862 students under training contracts and ICAEW 22,842. CIPFA also grew student numbers by 5% and now has 2,047 students in the UK and ROI.

ACCA student numbers worldwide tell a different story. It has a whopping 445,186 students studying its qualifications. That is a rise of 3.1% on 2018.

CIMA’s worldwide student figures in 2019 dropped by 9.1% to 107,049 in just one year.

Calling all members

The biggest accountancy body, by membership, in the UK and ROI is still the ICAEW. It had 130,928 members as at 31 December 2019. ACCA, however, broke the 100,000-barrier for the first time with 101,476 members, and it has a compound growth (between 2015 and 2019) of 4% compared with ICAEW’s 1.6%. CIMA has 83,657 members in the UK and ROI, then there’s a big drop to ICAS with 19,366 and CIPFA with 12,327 fully paid up members.

Altogether that means the UK and ROI has 374,432 qualified accountants. working away. That means there is a qualified accountant for every 194 men, women and children in both countries!

Becoming an NQ

ACCA leads the way when it comes to the sheer number of students worldwide who became members during the year. Some 14,683 ACCAs moved from PQ to NQ status in 2019.

Interestingly, the ICAEW is now converting more students to members than CIMA – 4,359 compared with 3,798. Looking at past figures shows in 2017 CIMA converted 5,147 students to members, so its membership conversion numbers have dropped by well over 1,000 a year for the past two years.

Where accountants work

The industry and commerce sector employs the highest percentage of members worldwide (55%) and students (43%). CIMA and AIA members in this sector make up 73% and 87% of their total membership.

Over three-quarters of students at ICAEW, CAI and ICAS are in practice (working for accountancy firms). In contrast, 2% or fewer of CIMA, CIPFA and AIA students are employed in practice.

Some 37,963 members and 47,391 students work in the public sector. The vast majority of students and members here are ACCA.

Gender bias

Latest figures show that the overall percentage of female students (50%) is greater than the overall percentage of female members (37%). ACCA has the largest percentage of female students in 2019 at 60%. Both CIPFA and CIMA’s female student numbers are 49% of the total.

However, women just don’t seem to be attracted to the ICAEW and ICAS. Just 41% of Scottish Institute students are female, and 45% of ICAEW trainees. It is hardly surprising then the female members make up just 29% of ICAEW’s total membership – that’s the lowest of all seven bodies.

Do you need a degree?

The accountancy bodies do not require entrants to hold a university degree and offer a range of entry routes. That said, a whopping 92% of CAI PQs have a degree when they sign up, and 75% of these degrees are relevant ones. This makes the CAI the biggest degree holding qualification.

Over at the ICAEW some 75% of trainees join up with a degree, but only 25% have relevant degrees. Just under half (49%) of CIMA PQs join up with a degree, and 39% of these are relevant. At ACCA 37% of studiers have a degree (with just 19% relevant). Finally there’s CIPFA, where less than one in five (18%) start studying its qualification with a degree, and just 10% are relevant degrees.

Getting the money in

The seven accountancy bodies brought in revenues of £481.4 million in 2019. ACCA’s income of £212.7 million is in stark contrast to the AIA’s £1.6 million. The report has also worked out the average income from members and students worldwide. ICAS brings in £683 per student and member, CIPFA £425, ACCA £315 and CIMA £244.

• Check out the full report here.

*The seven bodies in the study are: Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland (ICAI/CAI), Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS), and Association of International Accountants (AIA).