Newcastle University, PwC and ICAEW: giving students a flying start into the world of accountancy

Newcastle University, PwC and ICAEW: giving students a flying start into the world of accountancy

This innovative three-way venture provides a unique opportunity for students to mix study with work experience and a professional accountancy qualification.

This case study originally appeared on page 66 of the State of the Relationship 2014. The report outlines the state of university-business collaboration in the UK, featuring expert views and over forty case studies. Read the full report.

Newcastle University’s Flying Start Degree programme, delivered in partnership by the university’s business school, PwC and ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) is now in its twelfth year. The programme was the first to see a top university, a leading employer, and a globally recognised accountancy body come together to offer advanced career opportunities while providing students with a full university experience.

The programme is unique in the way it prepares students for professional accountancy careers. Students graduate with a degree from a top UK university, 12 of the 15 professional exams of ICAEW’s ACA qualification, and paid work experience in years two to four with one of the world’s top professional services organisations. After completing the four year degree, successful students may be offered a full-time graduate job with PwC and complete their ICAEW Chartered Accountancy qualification.

“The strength of this course is the mix of academic study, practical work experience and professional exams; Knowledge, Skills and Experience have always been the cornerstones of training as an ICAEW Chartered Accountant.”
Shaun Robertson, Head of Qualifications, ICAEW

Since its launch, the programme has been a popular route for training business, accounting and finance students, with more than 300 applications for around 50 places available each year, and close to 85 per cent going on to graduate roles at PwC. The programme has developed consistently high academic performance. In 2013, for example, the programme saw 100 per cent of its students obtaining a first class or 2:1 degree, compared with a national average of 63 per cent.

Richard Irwin, Head of Student Recruitment at PwC, says the company took a conscious decision to keep students in university education. “It’s important that employers find a balance between academic learning and offering work experience, so that students can get the skills, the knowledge and the learning discipline to become well rounded employees,” he says.

Sponsoring a degree programme is a critical component of the PwC’s strategy to cost effectively attract the best talent. The Flying Start programme trains students to qualification level at 40 per cent less cost than the company’s mainstream graduate programme.

Classroom learning with practical work experience is an important factor too. Students find a truly integrated learning experience through the unique structure of work placements, rather than sector standard industry sandwich degrees. “At a time when school leavers are much more actively balancing the benefits of university with those of starting their career, this programme offers the best of both worlds,” says Irwin.

Debbie Jones and Chris Soan, Degree Programme Directors for the BA (Hons) Business, Accounting and Finance programme at Newcastle University Business School, call the programme a “great success” for all three partners and a “blueprint for others to follow”. The collaboration has enabled the university to produce graduates who offer great value to employers. “Our students are ‘work ready’ and fully equipped to face corporate challenges,” they add.

Simon, a 2011 Newcastle University graduate, says participation in the programme gave him: “…lots of experience compared to my peers, and a network of contacts not only spanning the country but also globally.”

Building upon the success of the Newcastle University degree programme, PwC have subsequently launched a partnership with the Henley Business School at the University of Reading and a third programme with the University of Nottingham.

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