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Educational Courses that Can Help You to Qualify

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In this section the various types of full-time and part-time courses provided in universities and other colleges that can help you to qualify as an accountant are briefly described. These are:

a. University degrees: specially relevant, relevant, semi-relevant, non-relevant

b. Diploma of Higher Education



c. National Council for Vocational Qualifications

d. BTEC and SCOTVEC National Certificate and Diploma courses

e. Professional courses leading to the various Institutes' exams

University Degrees

All the Institutes encourage students to enter as graduates rather than straight from school and it is interesting to note that, although each Institute has its own rules about exemptions from the various exams, the graduates with non-relevant degrees do not necessarily lose much progress in their careers compared with those with relevant degrees.

Relevant degrees are those with a large accountancy element, and they would also include some economics, law, maths and statistics. Students would normally be expected to get a good pass in the relevant subjects. A specially relevant degree is an approved university degree which has usually been devised in consultation with the accountancy bodies so as to cover most of the topics in the professional exams. Semi-relevant degrees are those which cover some, but not all, of the topics required and usually give subject-for-subject exemption from the various foundation exams. The regulations about which category a particular degree comes into vary from Institute to Institute, and the picture is constantly changing as the course structures change and more and more emphasis is put on full-time degree level education. So it is essential to check with the various Institutes to see whether the degree course you plan to take is suitable. Degrees that exempt graduates from most professional programmes include MA, BA or B.Sc. Accountancy; BA Accounting with or without options; BA Accounting and Finance; BA or B.Sc. Business Studies with accountancy; BA or B.Sc. Economics with Finance; MA Accountancy and Economics; B.Sc. Business Administration.

Some examples of the kinds of degree that may qualify are set out below:

Especially Relevant Degrees
  • Heriot-Watt University: BA in Accountancy and Finance
  • University of East London: BA Hons Accountancy and Finance
  • University of Exeter: BA Hons Accountancy Studies
  • University of Glasgow: Bachelor of Accountancy
  • University of Hull: B.Sc. Accounting
Relevant Degrees

  • Any Business Studies degree with a main accountancy option, e.g.: University of Bath: B.Sc. Business Administration
  • Any B.Com. Degree with a major accountancy option, e.g.: University of Birmingham: B.Com. Accounting.

Semi-relevant Degrees

  • University of Aston four-year sandwich course for B.Sc. Hons in Managerial and Administrative Studies
  • University of Dundee: B.Sc. Hons Accountancy and Chemistry
  • Diploma of Higher Education

The Diploma is intended to be a qualification in its own right, or an alternative route to a degree, and is especially useful for people who have not made up their minds what career they want to follow. Two years' study on a fairly broad base for the Diploma gives you the chance to work at various subjects and find out what really interests you. If you decide you need a degree you can normally continue for two more years and convert the Diploma into a degree.

An example of how to make use of a Diploma scheme is offered by the London Guildhall University's modular course, which can lead to a major study, or to combined studies, in a wide range of subjects, including accountancy, economics, French, law, maths, statistics and computing. The course can be taken full or part time, and can lead to a BA/BA Hons, B.Sc./B.Sc. Hons, or Diploma. Depending on the level of accountancy studies included in a Diploma course, you would get subject-for-subject exemptions from some of the Institutes' exams, even if you did not continue to degree level.

Diploma courses are validated by universities. A full list is given in 'A' Compendium of Advanced Courses in Colleges of Further and Higher Education published annually by the Regional Advisory Councils, and obtainable, price £4.40, from the London and South East Regional Advisory Council for Education and Training, 232 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V1AU.

National Council for Vocational Qualifications (NCVQ)

The NCVQ was set up in 1986 to construct a comprehensive and logical framework from the wide range of vocational qualifications available nationwide. In 1991 the government brought together all the qualifications awarded by the three main awarding bodies, The Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC), The Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and City and Guilds, under the control of the NCVQ. It now has an inspectorate which monitors the quality of National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) across the country.

NVQs are designed specifically for education and training at work, the aim being to bring more coherence and comparability to vocational qualifications. The intention is to replace many of the existing qualifications such as the Higher National Certificate and Diplomas (HNCs and HNDs), although many students continue to study for these. NVQs are available at five levels, Level 1, the lowest, to Level 5, broadly equivalent to a degree. NVQs are developed by statutory Lead Bodies who represent the industry or occupation concerned and work with the NCVQ. They are available at three levels: Foundation, broadly equivalent to four GCSEs at grades D-G or one NVQ at Level 1; Intermediate, broadly equivalent to four to five GCSEs at grades A-C or one NVQ at Level 2; and Advanced, broadly equivalent to two A levels or one NVQ at Level 3. The Part One GNVQ was introduced in 1995 to provide a two-year, school-based course for 14-16 year olds. It consists of a choice of subjects which can be studied at Foundation or Intermediate Levels as an alternative to GCSE, roughly equivalent to GCSEs.

Many of the accountancy institutions harmonize their courses and qualifications with the NVQs so that candidates can also be awarded an NVQ certificate at the relevant level.

Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) Courses

BTEC offers non-degree courses for people in business and public administration.

Courses include business and finance; distribution studies; and public administration. They are run in colleges, universities, companies and training centers and can be studied in various ways: full time, day release, evening study, block release, sandwich, open and distance learning.

The content of the courses varies in different colleges, who will provide their own syllabus. Each course consists of an interrelated group of components called core subjects and option subjects. Core subjects are compulsory and are designed to cover fundamental knowledge and skills, while option units are specialised studies that are usually related to specific careers, including accountancy.

The total scheme of study is called a programme, which may be unit-based or a grouped course. Each unit-based programme consists of a number of self-contained units of different levels.

There are three levels of BTEC qualification:


  • First
  • National
  • Higher National

…those are now harmonized with the NVQ/GNVQ system. There is also a range of continuing education provision for adults.

BTEC First Certificate/Diploma

BTEC First Courses in Business and Finance are for junior employees and trainees in business and finance-related occupations. Students should be at least 16. No formal examination passes are required. Length of course is about one year part time for the Certificate and one year full time for the Diploma. Part- time study may be through day release, block release or in-house training.

BTEC National Certificate/Diploma

Students should be at least 16 and for most courses need four GCSE grades A-C, or alternative qualification, including a BTEC First Certificate or Diploma, or relevant NVQ at Level 2 with appropriate attainment. Length of course: Certificate, two years part time; Diploma, two years full time, three years part time or sandwich study.

BTEC Higher National Courses

Students should be at least 18 and hold an appropriate BTEC award or equivalent qualification or suitable A levels. Length of course: Certificate (HNC), two years part time; Diploma (HND), two years full time, three years part time or sandwich study.

BTEC NVQs

Many colleges now offer the BTEC NVQs and GNVQs in Business and Finance. GNVQs in Business and Finance are available at Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced Levels and cover all aspects of business-related skills. The Foundation Course has no entry requirements but students should have a good command of English and a commitment to the subject. The course aims to improve communication and information technology skills and includes subjects such as marketing, costing and business organisations. Compulsory subjects include Investigating Working in Business and Processing Business Payments. Much of the course is taught through projects, case studies and teamwork.

The Intermediate GNVQ Course is suitable for people who want to proceed to Advanced Level work, and builds on the Foundation approach. There is continuous assessment as well as external testing in the mandatory subjects. All students must complete three compulsory subjects, including Business Organisation and Employment, Financial Transactions and People in Business. There is also a GNVQ at some colleges in Business and Finance for bilingual learners.

The Advanced Course provides a route into higher education and takes two years to complete. Applicants should have a relevant GNVQ Intermediate Certificate or four GCSEs grades A-C. Mandatory units include Business Law, Business Systems, Marketing, Human Resources and Resources Business Planning.

BTEC NVQs in Business Administration at Levels 1-5 and in Accounting are also available. The early stages prepare students for jobs in accounting, such as sales clerks and cashiers, and can lead to formal accountancy qualifications.

Recognition of GNVQs and BTEC Awards

Although these awards are recognized by many institutes, candidates should check the current position with an institute before embarking on a training course.

Association of Accounting Technicians: NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Accounting or BTEC First Certificate gives exemption from the Foundation Exam. NVQ/SVQ Level 3 or BTEC/SCOTVEC HNC/D in Business and Finance gives exemption from the Intermediate exam.

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants: Any BTEC or Higher National Certificate/Diploma (HNC/D) or GNVQ qualifies for student entry; an HNC/D in Business and Finance may qualify for partial or complete exemption from Level 1.

Chartered Institute of Management Accountants: National Certificate/Diploma in Business Studies qualifies for student entry; HNC/D in Business and Finance or Business Studies or Advanced GNVQ/SNVQ in Business and Finance can qualify for exemption from some exams.

Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy: National Certificate/Diploma in Business and Finance/Distribution/Public Administration can qualify for student entry provided that a student has also obtained GCSE passes in English and maths. HNC in Business and Finance/Distribution Studies/Public Administration gives student entry to pre-professional higher education courses. HND in Business and Finance/Distribution Studies/Public Administration gives student entry to the Institute's own foundation stage. Subject-for-subject exemptions maybe available for an appropriate Diploma course. NVQ/SNVQ at Level 3 or GNVQ/SVQ at Intermediate level may give exemption from the Foundation stage.

Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales: The intake is almost entirely graduate, but BTEC National Diploma or GNVQ at Intermediate Level may be considered for student entry to pre-professional higher education course (i.e. a degree, Higher National Diploma or accountancy foundation course); Higher National Diploma gives exemption from attendance at foundation course and eligibility to enter a training contract.

Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland: NCVQ awards and National Council for Education Awards in Ireland can give exemptions if obtained at appropriate levels.

Institute of Cost and Executive Accountants: Subject-for-subject exemption from Levels 1 and 2 for BTEC Higher Certificate and Diplomas and GNVQs/NVQs at Level 4 to a maximum of eight subjects.

Institute of Company Accountants: National Certificate/ Diploma in Business and Finance qualifies for student entry and exemption from individual subjects. HNC/D and GNVQs/ NVQs at appropriate levels give exemption from some subjects at Levels 1, 2 and 3.

Institute of Financial Accountants (IFA): The IFA bases its exams on the NVQs in Accounting (Levels 2-5). The BTEC First Certificate/Diploma in Business and Finance qualifies for student registration. The BTEC National Certificate/Diploma in Business and Finance provides exemption from Levels 1 and 2. The BTEC HNC/D in Business and Finance provides exemption from Level 3.

Institute of Accounting Technicians in Ireland: BTEC Certificate or Diploma holder or GNVQ/NVQ can gain some exemptions.

Scottish Vocational Education Council (SCOTVEC) Courses

The Scottish education and training system had already been rationalised before the advent of National Vocational Qualifications, through the Scottish Vocational Education Council (SCOTVEC). So SCOTVEC administer all the Scottish Vocational Qualifications, with the help of Lead Bodies in developing courses. SCOTVEC's qualifications are based on a system of freestanding units which can be put together for group awards. The same system applies to the basic national certificate modules up to Higher National Diplomas and post-graduate qualifications. There are several different types of unit:

National Certificate modules Higher National units Workplace assessed units Industry units. This adds up to a very flexible system. Scottish Vocational Qualifications are built up from a combination of the different types of unit and are recognized throughout the UK because of their relevance to specific areas of work. All candidates receive a Record of Education and Training (RET) which is a cumulative certificate upgraded as the student progresses up the system. The record is computerised and automatically upgraded each year in which the student successfully completes a unit. It also shows the appropriate exemptions and recognitions from industry and professional bodies.

Courses leading to SCOTVEC HNC/D awards are offered in colleges of further education and central institutions throughout Scotland. National Certificate level modules and programmes made up of modules are offered in further education colleges, central institutions and secondary schools, for those aged 16 or over, on full-time, day-release, evening, block-release and in some cases distance-learning courses.

Higher National Certificate in Business Studies

Normal length of course: one year full time or two years part time. The Certificate is awarded to candidates who hold passes in the compulsory subjects and a further three appropriate subjects.

Higher National Diploma in Business Studies

Normal length of course: two years full time or three-year sandwich course. The Diploma is awarded for passes in Economics, Business Law, Business Accounting, Business Systems 1 and subjects. Passes in at least four, Year One subjects must be obtained before entry to Year Two.

Higher National Certificate in Accounting Technician Studies

Normal length of course: one year full time or two years part time. The Certificate is awarded for passes in Taxation, Auditing, Financial Accounting, Business Accounting Systems, Organisational and Supervisory Studies, Cost Accounting and Budgetary Control.

Scottish Higher National Certificate in Accounting

The HNC may normally be taken as a one-year full-time or two-year part-time course. A range of units with varying credit values will form the framework of this course.

To gain the HNC, students will be required to achieve the following units: Financial Accounting Statements, Management Accounting Systems, plus optional units up to a credit value of 6.

Scottish Higher National Diploma in Accounting

The HND may normally be offered on a two-year full-time basis. A range of units with varying credit values will form the framework for this course.

To gain the HND, students will be required to achieve the following units: Financial Accounting Statements, Management Accounting Systems, Domestic Economic Environment, Business Law, Qualitative Methods, Organisation and Management Theories, Information Technology Applications, Advanced Financial Accounting Statements, Management Accounting for Control and Appraisal, Auditing and Income Tax, plus optional units up to a credit value of 7.

Applications for entry to all SCOTVEC courses should be made to centers and not to SCOTVEC; help in locating a centre offering a suitable course is available on written request from SCOTVEC, Hanover House, 24 Douglas Street, Glasgow G2 7NQ.

Because of the flexibility of the SCOTVEC system, it is particularly important to check with the relevant institution about the exemptions they will allow. A general guide is given below. Association of Accounting Technicians: HNC/D in Accounting and HNC in Accounting Technician Studies are recognised as satisfying educational requirements for membership. HNC in Business Studies is also considered on an individual basis. Exemption is given from Levels 1 and 2 to holders of the HND in Computer Data Processing.

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants: HND in Accounting: Level 1, Level 2 Papers, 1, 2, 3, 5B and 8. HNC in Accounting: Level 1 and Level 2, Paper 2, 5B. HND in Business Studies: Level 1 if appropriate options included. HNC in Business Studies: Level 1 Papers 1, 2, 4 and 5 if appropriate options are included. HNC in Accounting Technician Studies: Level 1 Papers 1, 2 and 5.

Group Certificates/Diplomas must be gained within three years or no exemptions are granted.

Chartered Institute of Management Accountants: HND in Accounting gives exemption from Stage 1 and Stage 2, Papers 1, 2 and 3, and Stage 3, Papers 1 and 2. HNC in Accounting gives exemption from Stage 1. HNC in Accounting Technician Studies gives exemption from Stage 1 Accounting examination. HNC and HND in Business Studies give exemption from Stage 1 and Stage 2 Management paper provided suitable options are taken.

Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy: HNC in Accounting gives exemption from foundation stage examination. Exemption from foundation stage and PEI granted to HND in Accounting.

Institute of Company Accountants: NC/HND in Business Studies and ND in Accounting; HNC/HND in Business Studies and HNC/HND in Accounting are considered on an individual basis. Candidates holding the NC/HND in Business Studies or ND in Accounting may be exempted from Part 1 of the Society's examinations. Those holding HNC/HND in Business Studies or HNC/HND in Accounting may be exempted from Parts 1 and 2.

Institute of Financial Accountants: The National Certificate in Accounting provides exemption from the examinations for Level 1; HNC in Accounting (including the optional subject-Personnel Administration) provides exemption from the examinations for Levels 2 and 3. Preparation for the Level 4 examination can be obtained by studying for the HNC in Accounting including Nature of Management.
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