(From Times Higher Education Supplement, 17 September 1999, p. 17)

Congratulations on your expose  (Whistleblowers, THES, September  3) of the affairs of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants . My further inquiries make depressing reading.

ACCA boasts some 150,000 students but the during the last five years around 6,000 actually qualified each year. Any UK university with a similar completion rate would surely be shut down. And this includes students who make umpteen attempts to pass exams.

Unlike other educational bodies ACCA refuses to undertake ethnic monitoring of its UK-based student population.

There is no check by the Quality Assurance Agency on the ACCA syllabus, examination or the teaching methods. There is no information about the drop-out rates or the number of students passing ACCA exams at the first or the nth attempt.
Most of the ACCA students have no hope of qualifying as accountants, but according to ACCA’s 1998 annual accounts they helped to generate a surplus (before the allocation of central overhead) of some £10,000 each day. ACCA students have no representation on council and are not allowed to elect any of its officeholders.
Under the deal with Oxford Brookes University, anyone studying for ACCA exams from Timbuktu and passing only part of the ACCA exams would get an Oxford Brookes honours degree. Oxford Brookes hopes to award some 10,000 such degrees each year for a fee without having any educational contact with the students. The obvious losers are accountancy education and British university standards.

One wonders whether the University vice-chancellors are awake to the issues. What exactly is an accountancy honours degree? What will be value of such honours degrees to employers? What does the ACCA/Oxford Brookes deal do to the value of British educational exports?

Austin Mitchell MP
House of commons