CTA Class of 2020! Where are you going to study?
Congratulations if you’re planning to study CTA in 2020. It’s a major achievement to get this far, don’t underestimate that.
“Does it matter where I study my CTA? Will it matter which university I studied through?” is a question I get asked all the time. Here are some thoughts on this.
Please note: CTA: Certificate in the Theory of Accounting and PGDA: Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting are the same thing. I refer to CTA because I’m so used to it!
Let's talk UNISA CTA 2020
(FYI: You can see my qualification journey here.)
For this article, I’m thinking mainly of the Unisa students. As a Unisa graduate myself (both BCompt and CTA), I can really relate to this concern. Although it is largely unspoken, there is definitely a feeling that Unisa graduates are of a lower-quality and somehow their degree is worth less. As a student trying to qualify as a Chartered Accountant, will your University choice hold you back? Will it be detrimental to your chances of qualifying? Will where you study CTA in 2020 make you a less successful CA(SA)?
This is a very sensitive subject for a lot of people, and there are very many opinions on the matter. My approach is based on my experience as a student, as a clerk, a qualified CA, a lecturer, my experience in training clerks, running a company, employing people and talking to other business owners and executives (both locally and internationally!). It is thus a personal opinion and may not reflect the opinion of others, but if some of my experiences and thoughts can help you, then I’m happy to share them. If they don’t resonate with you, that’s fine too!
If you study CTA at UNISA, then what?
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, every CTA / PGDA graduate writes exactly the same Board Exams. This means that no matter what University you attended (as long as the CTA is accredited by SAICA), those Board Exams level the playing field.
If every CTA / PGDA graduate passes the same exam, then you’re all in the same position. Only the Top Ten Board students are published, there are no ‘marks’. So, you either pass, or fail the ITC.
Instead of “Does it matter where I study CTA?”, your question should be, “Am I aware that I need to keep an eye on ITC while I’m studying my CTA / PGDA?“ (MOST of my study coaching students don’t think about this at all in CTA. REGARDLESS of what university they’re studying through, they think only of CTA. It’s understandable, but dangerous.
How many CTA graduates come from UNISA?
UNISA has the highest number of CTA students every year. BY FAR.
The volume of CA’s that have qualified through Unisa are very high. If for no other reason than the fact that Unisa has a greater number of CTA candidates per year.
Unisa’s CTA students number in the thousands. This means that even if the pass-rate is lower due to the challenges faced by long-distance students (which is another reason for a lot of students’ concerns), Unisa still has more CTA graduates every year than any other University. Does this mean that this volume of candidates who become CA’s are of a lower quality? That would mean that there an awful lot of second-rate CA’s around!
When I qualified, I was amazed at how few people asked which university I graduated through. Only my students were really interested in that information, the rest of the world only seems to care that I’m qualified. The university seems largely irrelevant!
So, why are students worried?
Pass rates. This is probably the biggest concern.
UNISA has notoriously low pass rates for CTA. If you join a university with ‘better’ pass rates, will you do better?
Not necessarily. I’ve seen it all. Some students do really well with great support, some of them can have the most amazing lecturers and support, and do terribly. Some are way better students on their own, and some HAVE to study with others. I want students to understand CTA, and themselves better. The more they know their own strengths and weaknesses, and what CTA requires of them, the more likely they are to pass. I offer study coaching because I find that students (from EVERY university!) try to get get through CTA with not-so-great study habits. It doesn’t matter what university you attend, you take your bad habits with you!
Personally, I also used to feel that other students ‘looked down’ on me because I was a UNISA student. I felt alone and isolated in undergrad because I wasn’t part of a group of people. It was me and my desk! Now? I can’t believe I wasted any energy on that at all!
When you plan out your ideal qualification journey, you generally have visions of a beautiful university campus, laughing with your fellow students at the coffee shop, and having study groups. In reality, we do what we have to do, where we can, how we can! If reality doesn’t match our vision, we can feel quite discouraged.
What are the challenges of CTA?
I wrote an article on this a while back: What are the challenges of CTA? As you plan to join the CTA 2020 students, think of these and how you’re going to deal with them.
Ultimately, your success will depend on who you are, what you do and how you face those challenges ahead, not where you study CTA 2020.
Find the resources you need to help you. Go out and look for them if you need, they won’t fall into your lap! (Of course, you know where to find me!)
You never know what your future holds. Your journey, whatever it looks like, will be yours, and you may be surprised to find that one day, you look back and realise that the challenges you faced have a purpose you never expected.