CIMA Launches Innovative 2015 Professional Qualification syllabus

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By Noel Tagoe,
Executive Director – Education, Chartered Institute of Management Accountants

Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) is the world’s leading and largest professional body of management accountants, headquartered in London. It has over 218,000 members and students operating in 177 countries.
CIMA India has been offering qualification courses for eight years. Its management accounting course is a balance of accounting and business management skills. The CIMA qualification develops analytical, application-oriented and decision-making skills, rather than just theoretical knowledge.
Management Accountants not only do financial performance reporting, but also manage the company’s business opportunities using non-financial, qualitative data, prediction models, external research and environmental factors to contribute to decision making in organizations.
In any organization, management accountants are the most qualified to justify the CFO and CEO’s decisions using these methods. Hence, they can also be referred to as business navigators, as they provide justification for Board’s decisions. They can gauge the integrity of the information, interpret it, and use its insights to inform, or make decisions.
Drawing on extensive global research into employer needs, CIMA has developed and launched its 2015 Professional Qualification syllabus, in response to growing concerns about rising youth unemployment. Studies by CIMA and others have shown that youth, the world over, are unemployed not due to lack of vacancies but because they do not possess the right skills. This is because the stakeholders in the education process rarely interact with each other. It has been suggested that education providers should engage with employers to understand their needs and design courses accordingly. CIMA developed its syllabus following such an approach. This ensures that the syllabus remains relevant. It seeks to develop competent and confident management accountants who can lead their organizations to a sustainable success.
For its research, CIMA interacted with leading organizations in Europe, Asia, Africa and the US, followed by roundtable discussions involving 200 organizations in 13 countries. The results of the research were validated with responses from over 3,000 participants to a global questionnaire survey.
The competencies that top employers seek from finance professional are core accounting and finance skills, business acumen, people skills and leadership skills.
Core accounting and finance skills include financial reporting, forecasting, planning, financial analysis, risk management, corporate finance and taxation.
These competencies were organized into a competency framework which formed the basis for creating a syllabus that met the needs of both, students and employers. New topics relevant to business accounting such as managing big data, finance function transformation and sustainability were also included. The updated syllabus maintains the current structure of three levels, with three subjects at each level. It focuses on equipping future finance professionals with the skills that meet the business needs of the day.
CIMA has also changed its examination system. Previously, each subject examination had essays and calculations. Now there are objective tests for each subject at a particular level and a case study that integrates knowledge from all subjects at each level. While the objective tests focus on intellectual and academic knowledge, the case studies judge how the knowledge is put into practice. This is to ensure a practice-oriented approach. It is no longer enough for students to learn by rote and not know how to apply their knowledge at the work place.
In addition, CIMA is moving towards paperless tests that can be taken more frequently. While the objective tests can be taken 365 days a year, the case studies can be taken four times a year. These changes have been made to meet the needs of today’s generation, which uses technology much more than previous generations to learn, gather and share information. Research has shown that students write for less than ten minutes a day and this has had a great impact on learning methodologies, assessment tools, etc. This generation also has a more flexibility approach to learning. The exam system’s flexibility will allow students to choose their pace of learning and progress.

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