Pretoria: Efforts to transform the chartered accountancy profession in the country have received a boost with the newly launched Walter Sisulu University (WSU) – South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) B Com (Accounting) Re-accreditation Project.
Speaking at the launch of the project on Thursday, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said the project was a very progressive partnership between the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), WSU and SAICA.
The primary focus of the project was to ensure that the WSU’s Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) degree gets accredited by SAICA and in the process, making graduates more competitive in South Africa’s economy.
He noted that historically black universities still remained relatively disadvantaged in terms of resources and quality of academic programmes.
“Graduates from historically black universities, especially black students, continue to find it challenging to enter the labour market,” Nzimande said.
The project was another milestone in on-going efforts to uplift historically disadvantaged institutions and communities, working hand-in-hand with key strategic partners.
“Over the next four years, the department is investing over R84 million in WSU’s Accounting Department through the National Skills Fund. This investment will ensure that WSU receives the SAICA accreditation which will enable this institution to offer the B Com (Accounting) degree while at the same time, maintaining teaching and learning standards that are consistent with the demands of the Chartered Accountancy profession,” he said.
The minister noted the latest initiative follows on programmes in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo and that over a nine-year period, the department had invested over R236 million into this programme through NSF grants.
But in total, the NSF has to date invested over R320 million towards effecting improvements and growing the accounting profession, he said.
Programmes like the one launched on Thursday would significantly increase the pool of students entering the Chartered Accountancy profession
“The country remains with a shortage of over 5 000 Chartered Accountancy professionals, with the public sector faced with a vacancy rate of over 40% in the financial fields… Skills shortages at postgraduate and masters levels amounted to almost 6 000 for immediately required accountants. Both the public and private sectors face an uphill battle in retaining qualified accounting staff.
As part of the department’s interventions to transform the sector, it approved a proposal by SAICA to fund the Thuthuka capacity building initiative for the re-accreditation of WSU for a B Com (Accounting) programme.
It is intended to build the capacity of the university to provide this qualification in a manner that will make the graduates relevant to the market and economic growth of the nation. WSU was previously accredited by SAICA to offer the Chartered Accountancy undergraduate programme.
Due to a number of historical events, including staff changes and insufficient focus on the programme, the accreditation was lost.
There was still a great demand from both the community and the students to achieve accreditation again, Nzimande noted.
“Through this project, 425 students will gain access to an undergraduate degree of a quality that was not available to them previously. The students will be supported throughout their undergraduate and postgraduate studies,” he said.
The intention is that only students from previously disadvantaged backgrounds will benefit directly from this project, in line with the demographic needs of the profession.