Charting a Course to Success: UWC Produces 44 New Accounting Graduates For SA
“If people are given the opportunity and they have the right attitude, anything is possible.”
Says Prof Walter Geach, Head of the Department of Accounting at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), bursting with pride at the Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting (PGDA) students of 2016 who have passed another hurdle on their way to becoming chartered accountants.
The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) invites graduates to write the Initial Test of Competence (ITC) twice a year,in January and June.
This year, 44 of UWC’s PGDA students passed the SAICA-ITC exams, achieving an overall 89% pass rate of those students from UWC who wrote the exams.
“Our students really shone,” says Prof Geach. “It is a national exam and it is telling that our students, a lot of whom come from very poor and difficult backgrounds, can compete with the best.”
The grueling two-day exam consists of 4 tests of 3 hours each, and the pass mark is 50%. It’s not easy, but those who pass have demonstrated their mastery of a scarce and important skill, and are well-placed to make a difference in the South African economy.
“What is really nice about this is that it shows that UWC is on par with other universities,” Prof Geach says. “Many people don’t realize how much our students dedicate themselves to achieving academically - and how well they do when they do.”
UWC’s Accounting programme has continued to grow from strength to strength.
“In the past two years UWC achieved a 100% pass rate of the exams that were written in January and June.We have a class of 60 this year, whereas before we would have a maximum of 20 to 25. Last year we had our biggest ever with 62.”
Other South African universities have much bigger classes, for example the University of KwaZulu-Natal can have a class of up to 250 students.
Prof Geach attributes the excellent result to interventions his experienced staff have implemented over the past few years.
“We’ve just had a three-day SAICA accreditation visit, and one of the important features that they acknowledged about our department is the willingness of our staff to consult with students on a one-on-one basis, which is exhausting and time-consuming, as you can imagine. But it works.”
Another matter: UWC lecturers provide detailed notes in addition to making lecture hall powerpoint presentations available to students, allowing classroom time to be used for more in-depth discussions and subject matter interrogation.
“Furthermore, we have strong staff who come from a diverse range of universities and backgrounds, so you have a wealth of different styles mixing and remixing in the class.”
SAICA has made it a goal to improve the pervasive skills of students at a university to get them more involved in report writing, lateral thinking and critical thinking.
“These are skills we really encourage,” Prof Geach explains. “When you look at many of our students, they don’t have much in the way of home comforts or a home support system - so our staff play not only a purely academic role, but also that of a support system.”