Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister, Blade Nzimande, says a lack of accreditation at historically disadvantaged institutions limits access to the advancement of black people in the accountancy profession.
"It results in their BCom Accounting (Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting) graduates not being able to become Chartered Accountants (CAs), and their qualifications not being recognised by prospective employers," Nzimande said.
Addressing the 27th Annual PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Education Conference,Nzimande said while there are currently more than 48 000 registered CAs in South Africa, less than 9 000 of them are African and Coloured.
"There are 17 universities in South Africa offering BCom Accounting, which are accredited by SAICA [South African Institute of Chartered Accountants], with a few historically disadvantaged institutions being offered SAICA accreditation for their accounting programmes.
"In the accountancy career, we need to ensure that we step up our strategic intervention to increase access and success, particularly in the number of black Chartered Accountants, and offer these young black South Africans increased access in the field of commerce," Nzimande said.
Nzimande is concerned about the issues that SAICA still has to confront in the pipeline of producing CAs, including the pass requirements for the Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting (CTA), as well as obstacles facing particularly black articled trainees in the field.
"We have to confront these obstacles in order to ensure that every aspiring and capable accounting student is able to become a professional accountant. South Africa cannot afford to lose out on an opportunity to ensure that its produced graduates, particularly in scarce skills, contribute to the much-needed job in our economy, "he said.
Funding for "missing middle" remains a challenge
While many strides have been made by government in funding Post School Education and Training (PSET), Nzimande acknowledged that funding for the poor and the “missing middle” students in South Africa still remains a challenge.
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding has increased more than five-fold just in six years, from R5.9 billion in 2014 to R34.7 billion in 2020.
In the current financial year, NSFAS funding is expected to reach over R43 billion – a further increase of nearly R10 billion in just two years.
Nzimande said NSFAS continues to collaborate with the SAICA Thuthuka Bursary Fund to ensure that the economy has a consistent flow of adequately and suitably qualified accounting professionals, who are representative of our country’s demographics.
"Currently as government, we are also examining new mechanisms, backed by both public and private sectors, to support students in the so-called missing middle income bracket, and post graduate funding. Cabinet will now be considering revised options for student funding, including on what can be done for the missing middle in our country, "Nzimande said.
He said both Higher Education and Training and Science and Innovation Departments, remain committed to work with PwC on any projects, particularly on human and institutional capacity development which can benefit students and the economy.
Decadal Plan to strengthen STI system
Meanwhile, Nzimande announced that government and both departments are working towards the review of the Higher Education, Science and Innovation landscape and to finalise a Decadal Plan to strengthen and grow the Science, Technology and Innovation systems with skills development as a central pillar of our job creation and human resource development programmes.
"It is essential that corporate South Africa unbolts its gates to graduates from universities of technology, Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges and other training institutions supported by Sectoral Education and Training Authority, so that we have a range and mix of knowledge and practical skills entering the workplace.
"The business sector also needs to be more responsive to our desperate requirement for workplace placements for students in TVET colleges and Universities of Technology."