Redefining accountancy training

May 2024

ICAS explains what the new syllabus will look like and how it is changing the way students learn.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) has unveiled the biggest shake up in how it trains accountancy students in its 170-year history.

ICAS has launched both a new syllabus and a new way of learning for students. The new syllabus will make sure that the qualification remains relevant in an evolving global business landscape and ICAS students will learn through a UK first training model.

The new syllabus includes future-focused themes of sustainability, technology, and business ethics, alongside the core technical accountancy skills that the CA qualification is globally renowned for.

Great leap forward

Gail Boag, Executive Director of Learning at ICAS, said: “The introduction of the new syllabus and learning delivery model is the biggest leap forward yet in the way we train CAs. It allows us to keep pace with the influence of global socioeconomics and technology on business today. Firms were calling for greater flexibility in how we train students, and now thanks to our new model this is possible.

“While we have always updated our syllabus to reflect global developments to make sure that each generation of CAs remains relevant, this change is more significant, reflecting technological and other geopolitical factors that both enable and disrupt the profession.

“The qualification focuses on so much more than finance and equips students with the skills that they need to be business leaders of the future, incorporating ethics, sustainability, and use of technology as part of the syllabus

“The method in which we deliver the CA training has evolved dramatically, creating the best possible learning environment which combines remote digital learning with in-person classroom and community events. But we also know that the true barometer of our success is the impact that our students will go on to make throughout their careers with the skills that we equip them with now. The CA designation remains a badge of quality and trust, something that can be seen in the fact that CAs hold senior positions in 83% of FTSE companies.”

The new syllabus was created in response to demands from the accountancy profession for a qualification that meets their challenges and helps them attract the best talent.

Sustainability and the impacts of technologies like AI are rapidly driving changes in the business environment and shaping the next generation’s career expectations

The new ICAS syllabus empowers CAs by providing them with practical skills and knowledge to collaborate, communicate and provide leadership on sustainability issues. Helping boards and management understand the link between those issues and financial performance.

Reshaping the role

New courses cover topics such as data analytics and business intelligence, and students learn directly on the digital platforms, such as Xero and Power BI that are currently reshaping the role of the accountant, something that has not been done before.

Bruce Cartwright CA, CEO at ICAS, said: “Throughout our 170-year history, ICAS has constantly reinvented itself to remain relevant in an ever-changing world. The introduction of this new syllabus represents one of the biggest changes we’ve ever made. We believe it goes beyond the numbers, to foster the ethical mindset, technical skills, professional knowledge and practical experience that will establish CAs as the business leaders of the future.”

Scheduled across four terms each year, there are now more enrolment options and greater control over the paths students can follow.

Employers can also choose how quickly their students’ progress and how often and when they’re in the office focused on work and clients.

Three years’ time

Unique to ICAS, employers and students can see their course schedules three years in advance, and new electives provide opportunities for specialisation and role-relevant learning. All this is delivered while still maintaining the high levels of challenge and integrity for which the CA qualification has long been known.

The syllabus also features additional touchpoints that maximise students’ engagement with tutors and peers. These include in-person workshops, pre-assessment drop-in sessions and ICAS’ first-ever UK-national induction event, which will be held at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on 9 September.

For the first time in the UK, accountant trainees and their employers can see what they’ll study for the entire three-year period at the start their studies. They will also be able to choose when they study certain subjects and specialties meaning that both the student and the employer can plan when they will study and when they’ll learn on the job, servicing clients and working in the business. Training with ICAS will also mean that students can study online, but also access in person workshops and tutor time.