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Q&A with CIMA

Zoe Robinson, Kaplan Director of Accountancy and Peter Stewart, CIMA Director of Learning

We recently asked Peter Stewart, CIMA's Director of Learning a few questions on what it means to be a Premium Learning Partner and Official Publisher, and found out a bit more about how CIMA developed the 2015 syllabus, and what the reaction has been like. Read on to find out what he had to say...

What does it take for a Tuition Provider to be a Premium Learning Partner, and what have Kaplan done to achieve this high level?

CIMA's Premium Learning Partners offer students the best experience available across: learning materials, tuition support and course administration. What makes a premium partner stand out is consistent delivery of pass rates in excess of global average. The accreditation covers all forms of learning delivery: classroom, distance learning and online.

Premier partners are benchmarks against which all colleges delivering CIMA training can set their standards.

Kaplan has been one of CIMA's highest accredited partners for a very long time, working in a close partnership with CIMA to deliver the shared goal of seeing as many students as possible progressing through the exams and enhancing their career prospects.

As the Official CIMA Publisher, how do Kaplan and CIMA work together to deliver the study materials?

We have only one "Official Publisher" – Kaplan. The Kaplan materials are the only publications which are reviewed by the faculty who write the CIMA syllabus. The syllabus writers collaborate with the authors to deliver accurate coverage of the study material.

How does Kaplan support CIMA on making developments to the qualification for the benefit of the students?

Recent developments to the CIMA qualification were driven by consultation with organisations who employ finance professionals. As Kaplan are one of our largest learning partners (in terms of student numbers), with a shared desire to see capable and dedicated students increase their employability, we value input and feedback from Kaplan on the ideas we want to implement.

Zoe Robinson, Kaplan Director of Accountancy and Peter Stewart, CIMA Director of Learning

Zoe Robinson, Kaplan Director of Accountancy and Peter Stewart, CIMA Director of Learning

What has the reaction been like from students and employers to the changes made in the 2015 syllabus update, and the move to on demand exams?

The 2015 syllabus and assessment have been ground-breaking. CIMA completely changed the focus from "training to pass an exam" to "learning to enhance employability". The switch to computer-based exams is only a small part of the picture. The fact that we have built a qualification on the results of employer surveys, rather than academic research, is massive – it hasn't been done before.

Many students were already in the system when the change was made. The change has moved them out of a familiar environment (I won't say 'comfortable'; no one is truly 'comfortable' with exams!) so it's no surprise that the initial reaction was mixed. However, after a relatively short period, we've seen growing appreciation of the changes with students telling us that the revised qualification (as a whole) is making them 'better management accountants'.

Having been consulted extensively early in the process, employers are both supportive of the changes made (even if it's just the flexibility of the exam system) and appreciative of the fact that we are 'producing' individuals who are better prepared for the world of work.

What do you think the future holds for CIMA - how do you think the qualification will have changed in 10 years' time?

CIMA has put itself in a great place to serve the world of business in years to come. The qualification will develop to meet the changing demands in the workplace, whether those are technological advances or technical financial advances. We've put employability at the heart of everything the qualification does (syllabus, assessment, practical experience and post-qualification professional development) and we will continue to evolve and adapt in order to keep our promise to students, members and employers.

How is the CIMA qualification seen by employers in the UK and globally?

Given that we shaped our competency framework, our syllabus, our practical experience requirements, our assessment and our professional development around requirements described by those employers in the early consultations, it's little surprise that they are highly supportive of the changes we have made.

Peter Stewart, CIMA Director of Learning and Zoe Robinson, Kaplan Director of Accountancy

Peter Stewart, CIMA Director of Learning and Zoe Robinson, Kaplan Director of Accountancy

How has CIMA moved with the times, to meet the challenges and changes in economy or the new demands from students and employers?

I've been told that the average amount of time an office worker spends writing with pen and paper is seven minutes per day. For younger people in the work force, the figure is bound to be much lower. Does it make any sense to ask those people to spend 3 hours (or more) with pen and paper to give an indication of their suitability for the workplace?

Of course it doesn't. The majority of our new students are "digital natives"; the move to computer-based examination is a response to that.

We have harnessed the advent of "Big Data", drawing on the vast experience of global assessment experts, PearsonVUE, in order to develop reliable, fair, comprehensive and, in an age of increasing litigiousness, fully defensible examination system.

We built the 2015 Professional Qualification on up-to-date employer research; we've done likewise for the 2017 Certificate in Business Accounting. We will continue to do so, so that we can deliver on a promise of enhanced employability for all who go through our qualifications.

Where is the most exciting place you have travelled with CIMA?

I've been very lucky to travel to many countries on business with CIMA and I'm always welcomed with great warmth by colleagues, students, tutors and people in the business community. It is wrong of me to pick out one over the others but an idea of the diversity is: buying three Rolex watches for about £10 in Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur; experiencing the youthful dynamism of the booming economy in Delhi; cuddling a real, live lion in South Africa (yes, it was a 3 month old cub!); working with joint venture colleagues in the USA to build a greater understanding of management accounting; being in Hong Kong in 2014, during the build up to the student demonstrations (not CIMA students, I hasten to add!) and being introduced to the delights of the "hot pot" meal in Shanghai.

I have a particular soft spot for the people (and, yes, the food) of Sri Lanka. I was recently talking to a well-known former politician who had recently been in Colombo. I asked him, "Did you visit the Ministry of Crab?" He was bemused to hear of a ministry with such a narrow focus until I explained that it is actually the name of my favourite restaurant.

If you are interested, find out more about studying CIMA and view our CIMA courses.