Originally dedicated to fighting the proposed merger of the ICAEW with CIMA and CIPFA, this site now provides news about the ICAEW

Do you think the ICAEW rebranding was money well spent?

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Dying Institute?

Accountancy Age report that ACCA has 73,839 students in the UK and Ireland, CIMA has 57,106, while the ICAEW has 8,560.

The article also notes that the growth of ACCA and CIMA is outstripping that of the ICAEW.

Whilst it is true to say that size of itself is not an indication of quality, the ICAEW should be concerned that the number of people wishing to join the ICAEW is, on the face of these statistics, declining.

Yet, last year, the ICAEW wasted time and money chasing the false solution of a merger with lesser bodies.

The ICAEW needs to identify and address the "internal" issues that are putting potential new members from joining, and not waste its time and members' money on further merger votes.

Issues that need to be addressed include:

-The exam syllabus

-Ethics in the profession

-The size and structure of Council

-Value for money in respect of subscriptions

-Working more closely with CCAB

-Improving relations with ICAS


  1. Is it that students know that qualification with ACCA or CIMA will be much easier than with ICAEW?

    Also, since ACCA, CIMA and CIPFA can become Chartered subject to a few minor conditions including a £700 or so inspection fee (but no entrace fee?) why bother taking the direct route of becoming an ICAEW student?

  2. Jason

    If I have been given a free option to join either ICAEW or ACCA I will definitely choose ACCA since it's membership fee is lower and CPE requirements less onerous. The reputation of ACCA is better than ICAEW on international arena and gradually in par locally with ICAEW/ICAS.

  3. How many ACCA UK students train with firms of Chartered Accountants?

    8560 now. How many one year ago? How many a decade from now?

    Has the ICAEW merger mania suggested that most Chartered Accountants have nothing special to offer?

  4. ICAEW (and most ICA bodies around the world) biggest mistake is still insisting that its student must be trained in a public practice.
    I know of many that wants to be a ACA but are not interested in working in public practise while as a student and are being turned away by ICAEW.
    For this reason, ACCA, CIMA and CPA bodies around the world are gaining on the ICA.

  5. The apparent low number of ICAEW students should not concern us.

    The student numbers simply reflect the quality of students. It is well known that upper echelon students are in the minority, and it is these students who are studying for ICAEW. Of course there will only be a low number of students who are capable of passing ICAEW exams.

    We have an obligation to the dross not to waste their time, and they are rightly studying for ACCA and CIMA.

    We should be celebrating that this statistical evidence supports our beliefs.

    1. This baseless snobbery would sink the titanic never to rise again. Lack of foresight on part of those who love to live in a cocoon. Business world is rapidly changing and there will be far less demand for number crunching accountants with primitive methods. Only those will survive who would be at the forefront to help businesses succeed with their understanding of the issues facing them and facilitate teh strategic decision making that is vital for business success. Primitive thinking doesn't help the ICAEW's sustainability issue that would only worsen with less new members joining in than those who retire each year. That is coming, be watchful.

  6. ICAEW is 95%+ graduate entry and its examinations are hugely more difficult than many other bodies, particularly CIMA.

    Now ICAEW would like to merge with CIMA; so that sends a perception of equality to educationalists, businessmen and accountancy (including ICAEW) students.

    CIMA say their qualification is more relevant to business and second to none (in reality it is second-rate).

    ICAEW have lost the plot and on this occasion Ken is off target with his list of issues.

  7. It would be good to hear from Dr Wooller.

  8. There is a lot of talk of ACCA being easier than ICAEW, how is this if you don't know what is going to surface in any given exam? The exam pass mark for ICAEW is 50%, ICAEW students are allowed to take authorised written material into 2 exams!!, both require 3 yrs practical experience involving a signed training record by a qualified accountant and ICAEW students sit less exams than ACCA!!.

    Also, why is "evidence" of being a graduate an advantage? What about those people who have achieved very good grades at school (who are bright enough to go to university) but have simply chosen to go to the university of life instead (the real world, where it really happens)!!

    To get to the point, some of the comments in here are bullshit, some people should wake up and smell the coffee, oh, and why not give it a stir with that silver spoon too!!

  9. The pass mark is not 50%, the pass mark is adjusted according to the quality of answers given in order to ensure that results are not distorted from year to year.

    I used to mark scripts in the early 90's


  10. Hi Ken,

    Actually I may stand corrected?, not sure on the pass mark for the professional stage but the advanced stage is 50%

    The wording in the following link (unless they have got it wrong) suggests "all" papers:


  11. Simon Cheung , 12-Apr-2006 [Edit] [Remove]
    Comparison of Regulatory Remit in UK and USA for Accounting Profession
    Licensing for accountants in public practice
    USA : 54 States Boards of Accountancy for CPA Licensure

    UK : Recognised Qualifying Body

    Institute in charge of responsibility for holding professional examinations in accountancy


    UK: Recognised Qualifying Body

    Organisation responsible for promulgation of accounting standards


    UK: CCAB, ASB and FRRP (where involved large companies)

    Standards setting for professional ethics and code of conduct for accountants

    USA : 54 States Boards of Accountancy for CPA Licensure/AICPA/State CPA Society

    UK : RQB and APB (in development stage)

    Continuing monitoring or quality assurance of practising accountants

    USA : 54 States Boards of Accountancy for CPA Licensure

    UK : RSB

    Investigation for malpractice and disciplinary actions for accountants

    USA : 54 States Boards of Accountancy for CPA Licensure

    UK : RSB/RQB and AIDB (where involved public interest)

    Regulation of audit practice in relation to publicly listed companies


    UK : POBA

  12. CIOT candidates may take law books weighing almost one stone into their examinations.

    The pass mark for each of the four papers is about 52.5%.

    The majority of members are already qualified accountants/ lawyers. Yet the pass rate is only about 40%.

    Some exams are more difficult than others. Some have overall time limits and some do not. Some allow the passing of a single subject at a sitting.

    Those institutes with more members than students have lowered and will further lower their standards; they will have to to admit those who are at best mediocre.

    Anon 11.29am obviously didn't sit the ICAEW exams. Let us hear from some who took ICAEW and CIMA since, in any event, ACCA and ICAEW will never merge except through enforced legislation.

  13. Anom

    "50%" is a meaningless figure.

    The marking scheme is adjusted to reflect the "quality" of the papers presented; eg if it looks like everyone will fail, then the marking scheme will be "softened" accordingly:)


  14. Penultimate paragraph shoud read "more students than Members".

  15. Anon 12:23

    You are correct I didn't sit the ICAEW exams and it appears you have. However on the flip side, unless you have taken the ACCA exams, your comments are no more valid than mine.

    I'm not here to dismiss the ICAEW qualification, I actually think it's a first class qualification, it just angers me to see some of the comments posted about the ACCA qualification.

  16. Anon 12.23

    If CIOT students are allowed to take tax legislation into the exam, then they are effectively taking the answers to the exam paper in with them.

    This means the CIOT exams are very easy.

  17. Ken,

    When you sat the ICAEW exams in the eighties was there any choice of questions in any of the papers?

  18. Of course ICAEW exams are more difficult than ACCA.

    ICAEW students get 3 months full time study leave compared to 3 weeks for ACCA.

  19. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Simon Cheung , 12 April 2006 @ 14:25 PM [Edit] [Remove]
    Differences between USA and UK regulation of Accountants
    In the United States AICPA is only responsible for the holding of professional examination and setting standards of professional ethics for accountants, and issue statements of interpretation concerning the published FASB and GASB Accounting Standards.

    In UK most of the regulation works as regards the registration, continuous monitoring/quality assurance of audit practice and investigation of malpractice/disciplinary actions for auditors in public practice are still within the sovereignty of the Accounting Institutes instead of government agency in the USA.

  20. CIMA exams are more exacting than ICAEW, and the ICAEW Council have formally recognised this.

    A CIMA member can become a member of ICAEW by just sitting the Exam of Experience. For ICAEW members to become CIMA members they must sit the CIMA exams. There is no reciprocal agreement for the ICAEW Exam of Experience.

  21. Open door policy = Open farmers’ market operations in which buyers will be turn down.

  22. It should "No" buyers will be turn down.

  23. With the dumbing down of the Chartered Accountant (and it will have an effect on ICAS as well), only ATII will hold any prestige following the open door invitation.

  24. There is absolutely no prestige in being a Chartered Accountant. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can be one, provided they are willing to part with approx £700.

    There is no reciprocal agreement at CIMA or CIPFA. ACMA, FCMA and CPFA have become the prestige accounting qualifications now since entry is strictly restricted.

  25. CIPFA rules allow their Council to appoint anyone (even a person with no qualification) to be appointed a member.

    How can ICAS and ICAI continue to allow ICAEW reciprocal membership when ACCA, CIMA and CIPFA can become Chartered upon mere application?

    Perhaps ICAS should petition to have ICAEW Chartered status withdrawn so as not to also devalue their qualification.

  26. The CIPFA council will not afford membership to any Tom, Dick, Harry, Joe Bloggs or Average Joe. If is only given for outstanding contribution to accountancy.

    The ICAEW open door policy is available to all who have nothing better to do with £700.

  27. Re:


    When you sat the ICAEW exams in the eighties was there any choice of questions in any of the papers?

    From memory, the most choice was an "either or question" at the end of the paper.


  28. Anon 5.01

    CIPFA Councils are obviously non too bright since they have been snubbed twice by ICAEW members.

    The ICAEW Council are even less bright for wanting to donate the best of qualifications.

    ICAS withdrew their special examination rules from CIPFA and they should now sever the reciprocal deal with ICAEW.

    I do not believe that ICAEW can recover their former glory. Sadly, they are doomed and nothing can save them.

  29. Anon 5.25pm

    Agreed that ICAEW is doomed.

    The only way it will survive is by taking over the competition, so that it has a monopoly.

    I will be interested to see how many ACCA, CIMA and CIPFA think that it is worthwhile becoming Chartered Accountants. I personally think why waste £700 now when one can become chartered in a few years for free.

  30. Now I understand. It all makes sense now that your president has explained it (ref Accountancy April 2006 P 115)

    The reason ICAEW implemented the pathways to membership is so that we get a bigger pool of football players to choose from when entering the Inter-Institute Football Tournament.

    We will definitely lift the trophy next year and we will crowned the rightful champions.

  31. Ref Accountancy Age (13 April 2006) Page 4

    ICAEW membership in 2003 & 2004 grew by only 308 members.

    Your all doomed!!!

  32. 308 was the increase in the "home" membership. Since 2004 this membership is likely to have fallen.

    ICAEW staff numbers will have risen by 10 to 20% since Eric joined - and have, as previously announced,IFA staff moved into Moorgate Place yet?

    Quantity may be desirable but quality is vital - ICAS is the new leader and it will remain so.

  33. It also states in the Accountancy Age article that many ICAEW members are OAPs over 65 years old.

    I assume OAPs can opt out of CPD, which will mean the quality of members is already lower than ACCA whose membership are largely below 45 years old.

  34. As the year 2005 ended more than 100 days ago I would have thought that Vernon Soare would know something.

    If, as reported on AccountancyAge front page today (13/4/06), the best he can do is to believe that the 2005 figures would show improvement: both he and Eric Anstee should resign immediately.

  35. It may be instructive to compute the expected number of local ACCA members in the year 2100 assuming compound net growth of 5% pa is maintained and using the 2004 "home" membership of 56837 as the base.

    Of course if the rate were 10% with say, twice as many students as members .......

  36. Anon 12.48pm

    You will need to compare your ACCA 2100 result with home ICAEW result with net 0.3% additional members and more member deaths than births etc.......

  37. Net means net so future E&OE tables are not required.

    Don't be lazy - do your own calculations before you comment.

  38. Anon 1.03pm

    You neglected to read the part that there will be an acceleration of increasing member deaths over births. ICAEW has many many member over 65 years old. The net 0.3% will soon be a negative number in free fall.

    Don't be lazy - please consider all facts before posting

  39. It is of course possible, even probable, that new ICAEW student registrations may dry up completely within a decade. Then the institute would be well dead by 2100.

    However, the original comment only concerned ACCA member expansion and it only takes seconds to do the calculations.

  40. What ICAEW had done is just to trade in short term benefit for long-term growth. It hopes to gain immediate increase in member number by giving direct admission to all CCAB but losses the future student enrolment since ACCA, CIPFA or CIMA are all easily to get and being member of these have an option to join ICAEW at later stage. So why binds oneself for a CA training contract.

  41. The easiest exams to pass are those of ICAEW. These students are given about 3 months full time study leave with professional accountancy tutors (BPP, ATC, FTC and the like).

    Anyone should be able to pass with that amount of tuition. It is scandalous that anyone should fail.

  42. If I failed after 3 months full time study I would be thoroughly ashamed of myself.

    Consider the direct, indirect and opportunity cost to the employer.

  43. It's interesting to know that The Institute of Internal Auditors has given 7 papers exemption to ACCA and CIPFA but only 6 exemption to ICAI, CIMA and ICAEW. Even IFA members could get 4 papers exemption.

  44. I find it interesting especially people criticising ICAEW of extending reciprocal recognition to various bodies in EU and UK.
    I find these group of people short sighted and here is why!
    1) To be a leading body in this world it has to be accessable to all. It cannot be just a UK body. CPA Australia, ACCA and CIMA have proven that their strategies work!!! All the others are falling behind.
    2) Foreign members are an ambasador to the institute. I find most recomend ACCA or CIMA to their locals because they are one.
    3) Reciprocity is a previledge. It is not a right. Institute can choose and pick who they want to recognise. The smart ones will work with most....look at the recognition of ACCA designation around the world and ACCA extensive one sided recognition of bodies around the world.
    Ultimately, membership translate into money. ACCA know it. While someone may be able to use the ACCA designation, they cannot practise public accounting in UK. This is what ICAEW should look at. Someone can join ICAEW after a 3-5 years of membership of equivalent institute around the world. (especially the EU bodies since they are deemed equal)

  45. Anon 6.32pm

    You have failed to understand the key facts.

    All primary trained ICAEW members have chosen the most arduous and exacting route into the accounting profession. They are rightly considered by all stakeholders as the elite.

    We do not want to dilute our brand by introducing accountants into our fold who have trained via an easier route. You fail to realize that other accounting institutes (EU or UK) are not the equal of ICAEW.

  46. George Lee , 18-Apr-2006 [Edit] [Remove]
    What is the basis for recognition of overseas accounting bodies?

    According to ACCA's website information both ICAA and CICA are recognised under the UK Companies Acts for the purpose of performing the work of public audit. Since the recognition should have been given by the UK POBA in which there isn't any assessment being done with regards to the qualifying examination nor training requirements of foreign accounting institutes on which recognition is based.

    On the other hand the Irish IAASA has undergone careful examination of overseas accounting bodies under the direction of Irish Minster for Trade & Commerce and made recommendations thereon based on the result of examinations on the recognition issue.

    Prior to establishment of the Authority on a statutory basis, the Interim Board:
    has completed the examination of an application for continued Recognised status from the Institute of Incorporated Public Accountants (IIPA) and made recommendations in that regard to the Minister for Trade & Commerce;

    has completed a major exercise of examining three accountancy bodies (AIA, CIMA and CIPFA) with a view to making recommendations to the Minister for Trade & Commerce as to whether, on commencement of the relevant provisions, they should be prescribed under the Act, thereby bringing them within the remit of the Authority;

    has completed a major consultative exercise with the accountancy profession and other interested parties in the context of the development of the Authority's first Work Programme;

    Does anybody have a clue as to how UK POBA is operated and perform its statutory duties?

  47. Lisa , 18 April 2006 @ 22:15 PM [Edit] [Remove] Primitive Regulatory Regime in UKThe regulatory regime for accounting professions is still very primitive and undeveloped. It is relying on man management and rule by law instead of rule of law.

    Aaron Sung , 18 April 2006 @ 22:08 PM [Edit] [Remove] Political Decision The decision to recognize ICAA and CICA by POBA is a political one and nothing to do with assessement of professional qualification of both bodies. I remember the time HKICPA has reached a mutual recognition with CICA when there isn't any MRA CICA has in UK with any CA bodies such as ICAEW or ICAS, and DTI announced the recognition of CICA overnight after the media release of HKICPA about the MRA with CICA.

  48. I attach the original letter sent to Accountancy Age as the one published has been toned down!

    Your reports on the future (or lack of it) of the ICAEW (AA 13/4) raised our hackles. You might think reading your reports that the ICAEW is on its last legs!

    However, the numbers that you have published for the UK membership show that ICAEW dwarfs any of its competitors and is roughly equivalent to all of them put together. It is true that globally the ACCA is likely to become the biggest player but that is because of the nature of the ICAEW.

    It is a requirement of becoming an ACA that one spends time in a practising office. This makes it almost impossible for students overseas to take the qualification unless they opt to come to UK. For ACCA/CIMA there is no such work requirement.

    We would be quite happy for the ICAEW membership in the UK to fall as we have long felt that the ICAEW was too big and impersonal.

    What is important is that we continue to attract the top students and that we continue to provide the best training. The ICAEW statistics show that the intake of students continues to be of the highest calibre. The other bodies have never dared to publish their statistics!

    Let us make sure that we keep focused on quality and not on quantity.

    In the meantime our group will gird its loins and stand ready alongside Ken Frost and Bruce Lawson to fight the enemy ie the ICAEW Council. Last year we won a battle but not the war!

    Dr Jeff Wooller (ICAEW Ginger Group – not officially recognised)

  49. Jeff

    You forgot to mention that we are now admitting the cream of the other institutes via the Exam of Experience. This will bolster member quality and the chartered brand.

    Kind regards.

  50. Who the hell gave anyone the moral authority to make this perverse and stupid decision to admit ACCA, CIMA and CIPFA members by a back door.

    There should be a vote by members and if it is lost this route should be withdrawn both prospectively and retrospectively.

    Anstee and all senior council members should resign now.

  51. Dr Wooller,

    I cannot recommend the ICAEW to any prospective student without major changes in policy and personnel.

  52. Anon 11.31

    It is no back door.

    Entry is via examination of similar standard to the ICAEW case study.

    This preserves the quality of the membership.

    Kind regards.

  53. It is not an examination but a mere description of experience which is examined. Even the terminology is deliberately misleading. Who will not lie or at the very least embellish the truth?

    With all of the recent problems and acrimony this is obviously an underhand gesture to demonstrate power without consultation.

    The front door is the established training and examination route. Of course it is a back door - ask Ken, Kamran and Dr J what they think.

  54. Anon 12.21

    The application must be authorized and endorsed by two ICAEW members, so no one will be able to lie and embellish the truth in their application.

    One must treat Dr J with professional skepticism. He has a vested interest in keeping all institutes separate – remember Jeff Wooller Colleges sell tuition courses for ACCA, CIMA, etc. Do turkeys vote for Christmas.

    Ken has explained the “Pathways to membership” scheme long ago on this blog.

    Kamran has not posted for a long time. Last I heard he said he was going to take the ICAS exams since it was a “quality brand”.

    Kind regards.

  55. Some people on this forum are talking out their arse.

    Promoting a lack of respect for your fellow professionals, no matter what institute.

    And to think, some people in here call themselves 'professionals' yeah right!!

  56. The second ICAEW member is a fomality and as I remember has to have known the applicant for three years but does not need to know anything of his work.

    There will be few cases where the main ICAEW member will have a very detailed knowledge of an applicant's work experience over a five year post qualification period.

    Of course candidates lie and embellish non stop. The mere reading of a form is not likely to reveal the truth.

    I think Dr Wooller now resides in Monaco? If so, the turkey metaphor is unlikely to be appropriate but in any event he has written over a long period without fear or favour.

    Ken does not always investigate thoroughly and is sometimes wrong but, I don't remember what he said about pathways to membership.

    Kamran is to be commended if he has opted for ICAS - they will survive and prosper.

    I do agree with you that good judgment, after deep consderation, is frequently critical.

  57. One nelsons,

    Your language is atrocious in every sense.

    Competition is not about sweetness and honey.

  58. My language is to the point ;)

  59. Mine is more so. Let others judge.

  60. Anon 1.20pm

    My word - you mean that a person is not allowed to celebrate Christmas and eat a turkey meal in Monaco?