December 2012 issue

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Accounting and Finance in the UK

Often incorporating professional qualifications, accounting and finance degrees in the UK are a popular choice with international students. Matthew Knott reports.

A ccounting and finance are among the UK’s most popular subject areas for international students. In 2010/11, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, some 27,800 non-UK students were studying in these fields, with Asia providing 18,670. Several institutions offer these two disciplines in combined degrees, as well as other related programmes.

Graduates from Anglia Ruskin University’s BSc Accounting and Finance programme will, advises Tony Stringer, “benefit from a broad business background, exposure to industry and professional practitioners and significant exemptions from professional qualifications”. She explains there are also opportunities to study the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) examinations at foundation and professional levels in three-semester courses. Anglia Ruskin University is one of the UK’s few ACCA Gold Standard Approved Learning Providers, she adds.

The London School of Business and Finance (LSBF) also offers ACCA programmes, explains Denisse Diaz. “The BA Accounting and Financial Studies degree will provide students with the skills they need to build a successful career in the financial sector...Recognised by the ACCA, the programme is relevant and up-to-date, ensuring that graduates are prepared for the competitive financial sector.” There is also a study path to combine the degree with the ACCA qualification.

Students at Coventry University study a range of topics, advises Claire Penrice. In the first year, these include financial accounting, personal finance and business economics, as well as numeracy and IT skills. The second year has greater emphasis on business context as well as introducing Sage and Sap, two widely-used accounting information systems, while final year options include international corporate reporting, advanced taxation, portfolio management and international finance. She also highlights the degree’s international focus, exam exemptions (ACCA and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) and a blend of personal tutorial, group study and personal study.

Small tutor-led groups with a strong focus on workshop-based study and practical task-based learning are an attraction at Chichester University, attests Ian Jones. “The accounting and finance courses at Chichester offer a range of exciting modules, incorporating areas such as financial accounting, management accounting, corporate finance, management and law into a dual discipline degree.”
“Our BSc Accounting and Finance programme is the first and only undergraduate course in the UK to be recognised by the CISI (The Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment) as a Centre of Excellence for finance teaching,” attests Kate Salter at Birmingham Business School, the University of Birmingham. It is also the UK’s only course to provide a Financial Services Authority-approved qualification. With this, graduates can apply for ‘approved person’ status in the UK financial services workplace without further exams, meaning they are able to directly advise, invest and deal. She explains there is corporate sponsorship of several modules by partners such as Deloitte and KPMG, and students benefit from a range of professional exam exemptions.

BPP University College was the first publicly-owned private company to be granted UK degree awarding powers, advises Davinder Kaur. “BPP is one of Europe’s largest providers of accredited professional qualifications,” she continues. A degree in professional accounting includes core modules such as financial decision making, accounting information for business, and issues in financial management. The degree “gives students an excellent grounding in accounting and business disciplines. The programme builds from ‘core’ business and accounting activities through to areas of greater technical competence and finally to integration and professional application,” says Kaur. The course accelerates accountant qualification times and provides several exam exemptions. Similar degrees in business management with finance and banking and finance cover accounting and finance modules, while teaching from academics, professionals and tutors and specially designed English language support programmes also benefit overseas students. Kaur adds that BPP work with agent partners in each world region.

Birkbeck, University of London has recently launched an applied accounting and business degree programme in partnership with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, incorporating the body’s ACA certificate. Dr Linda Trenberth explains, “It is designed for maximum flexibility so there is no prescribed order in which students should take modules from either the Certificate/Professional levels of ACA or their top-up modules from Birkbeck. Ultimately, it takes less time and is less costly than taking a traditional degree route.” She adds that Birkbeck’s links with global professional accounting bodies offer linked accreditation recognised in several countries.

Careers and guidance

“A degree in accounting and finance can open the door to many lucrative careers within banks, insurance firms, consumer finance companies, brokerage firms... and various roles within large multinational companies,” enthuses Denisse Diaz at the London School of Business and Finance (LSBF). Birkbeck, University of London’s evening class schedule provides significant potential for combining study with work placements, explains Dr Linda Trenberth, and employability was a commonly-cited benefit among contributors. BPP’s Partner in Learning status with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales offers a range of information and guidance to support accountancy careers, says Davinder Kaur. Tony Stringer, meanwhile, highlights Anglia Ruskin University’s employability programme, with opportunities to meet representatives from the profession. The University of Chichester offers a work placement for students who want to gain professional experience before graduating, advises Ian Jones. At Coventry University, “We support our students to secure placement opportunities with companies and organisations,” says Claire Penrice.

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