University of Limpopo earns SAICA nod

The University of Limpopo (UL) has been approved as a SAICA-accredited university last week, thereby enabling students completing the BAccSc degree at UL direct access to an accredited postgraduate programme and in turn to write the examinations towards becoming chartered accountants [CAs(SA)]. This is applicable to students who started their degree in 2011 and who will complete this degree in 2014.

"We are delighted that the University of Limpopo has achieved SAICA accreditation. The impact of this will be felt not only by the students on the programme but also by the broader community at the university," said Chantyl Mulder, SAICA's senior executive for professional development, transformation and growth. Mulder noted that the inability of accountancy graduates from historically disadvantaged universities (HDUs) to register for the SAICA examinations without a bridging programme of some sort not only carried a negative stigma but rendered them less competitive in the labour market. She warmly congratulated the university and commended the accountancy faculty for its commitment to achieving accreditation.

Prof Cosmas Ambe, Director of School and Nedbank Chair in Accountancy at UL, welcomed the accreditation approval as a gratifying recognition of the high standards of the university's accounting faculty. "SAICA's standards are daunting, even by world standards - as they should be. Now that we are SAICA-accredited, we expect enrolments for our commerce-related degrees to increase. In particular, we now offer aspiring CAs(SA) in the Limpopo province the opportunity to further their studies close to home."

Mulder maintained the university's accreditation status would help contribute to expanding South Africa's desperately inadequate skills base, noting also that she was not surprised that the university had gained accreditation, given the rapid progress it had achieved in the past two years under the leadership of Prof Ambe. Prof Ambe said that over the past six years his university's School of Accountancy SAICA-accreditation dream had remained elusive owing to financial, personnel and infrastructural limitations. More recently, however, there had been a visible and pro-active re-awakening with the university's leadership taking an active interest in the process. He credited the Thuthuka Project - which offers comprehensive support, including full bursaries, to black and coloured youngsters wishing to become chartered accountants - as having played a significant role in UL's accreditation efforts and the university's extraordinary result in the most recent examination towards qualifying as a CA(SA).

Mulder noted that when Thuthuka first embarked on its project to assist the university towards accreditation the project had been founded on two key objectives:

  • capacity building at UL towards achieving SAICA accreditation; and
  • identifying and nurturing talent from Limpopo's rural areas, and providing these students with access to a quality education, workplace readiness training and an opportunity to enter training contracts towards a career in chartered accountancy.

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) was a key partner during the course of the project and offered students access to its postgraduate, Certificate in the Theory of Accounting (CTA) programme to enable UL graduates to write the qualifying examinations. UJ will remain as a partner to UL in the initial years of its accreditation to provide appropriate support. "We see our accreditation as an academic revolution," says Ambe.

Since September 2009, UL's School of Accountancy has implemented a turnaround strategy that included:

  • taking on full responsibility for material development, teaching and assessment and so phasing out the need for hands-on support from UJ;
  • an extensive staff recruitment drive comprising 15 permanent positions, of which 11 were academic and four were support staff; and
  • a "business unusual" focus on confidence, resilience, charisma, dedication, devotion, determination, focus and action.

"Furthermore, prospective and current students who applied for external financial assistance were negatively affected by the fact that typical sponsors are not willing to provide financial assistance to students who pursued their studies in non-SAICA-accredited HDUs." Says Ambe.

Category: guest article

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