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Update from the Accreditation Committee

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By Rob Stapleford, FCIA

In November 2010, the CIA Accreditation Committee updated the membership on the progress of its work and published a revised university accreditation program for review and comment. At the same time, the proposed program was sent to universities for their feedback.

Since that time, the committee has been busy reviewing the comments received and engaging in further dialogue with the universities and members through a variety of conference calls and two webcasts held in December 2010.

As a result of feedback received, the committee is considering several changes to the program. The proposed changes were discussed by the Eligibility and Education Council at its February meeting and will be considered by the CIA Board at its March 2011 meeting.

Member Feedback

We received comments from 13 members. The nature of the responses was mainly related to the process for ensuring consistency across university exemptions to ensure standards are upheld. This will be part of the important role of the Accreditation Panels and the overall Accreditation Committee in their evaluation of the university applications for course accreditation. A few members are fundamentally opposed to this initiative as they do not perceive any long-term benefits to the profession from changing its education system.

Another member concern was the future demand and supply of actuaries and whether the accreditation process will produce more actuaries than the job market can bear. One of the goals of the accreditation program is to attract even stronger candidates to the actuarial profession and this could result in more candidates. However, the committee does not think that these changes will create an imbalance in the supply and demand for actuaries. The university course exemptions will apply only to the early actuarial exams and the remainder of the qualification process remains the same. Market forces will continue to be the main driver in the supply/demand for actuaries.

A further assessment of the future demand and supply of actuaries in Canada is an important issue for the Institute and has a far broader reach than the scope of the Accreditation Committee. A new project to look at the supply of and demand for actuaries is currently being discussed by the Secretariat.

The lack of mutual recognition by the CIA’s education partners was also a concern. The Accreditation Committee shares this interest and is doing everything possible to keep the CIA’s education partners apprised of progress and actively seeking input from them to maximize the likelihood of obtaining mutual recognition for the accreditation program. Once the accreditation program has been finalized, the CIA expects that worries about diminished standards will have been addressed and that the discussion of mutual recognition can be resumed. It is the CIA’s goal to achieve mutual recognition for exam exemptions granted by the CIA with its partners in the co-sponsorship of exams. Until that time, the CIA understands that students concerned with cross-border mobility will likely elect to continue to pursue the FCIA through the traditional exam routes.

University Feedback

The majority of feedback received from the university perspective can be divided into four main categories where the Accreditation Committee is recommending changes to the program.

The first area is the role and requirements of the Accreditation Actuary (AcA); in particular, the requirement for an FCIA on staff at the university. The committee feels that allowing universities to fulfil the requirements for the AcA through a part-time or consulting role for a transitional period of up to four years initially, with annual reporting and review, will provide greater flexibility and additional time for staffing considerations. The AcA must still be approved by the Accreditation Committee. Universities also felt that it would be helpful for the CIA to have an academic route to Fellowship. A task force is looking at this, with an expected proposal to the CIA Eligibility and Education Council in July 2011.

The second area of concern for universities is the cost. Through its review, the Accreditation Committee is recommending that the one-time application fee for universities be lowered from $5,000 to $1,500. The cost to students applying for exemption from actuarial exams would remain the same as outlined in the original proposal at 80 percent of the corresponding exam fee. This pricing structure anticipates a revenue-neutral situation for the accreditation program for the first year.

The third area which was raised in universities’ comments was the ongoing partnership between the universities and the CIA. The universities suggested that an academic liaison committee be formed. This committee would report to the Eligibility and Education Council and would be comprised of representatives from accredited universities and other individuals as appropriate, to ensure ongoing dialogue between universities and the CIA. The Accreditation Committee agrees with this approach and will make the recommendation to the EEC.

Finally, the issue of timing was a concern for several universities. The Accreditation Committee feels that allowing the universities some flexibility for filling the position of Accreditation Actuary for a transitional period will reduce some of the practical concerns about timing. In January, the committee therefore decided to continue with its current mandate of accrediting universities for September 2011. However, the committee recognizes that September 2011 is an aggressive target that remains a concern to several universities. The Accreditation Committee has maintained an open dialogue with the universities and continues to assess these concerns in conjunction with its progress on accreditation. Without slowing down the work of the committee, a longer implementation period was discussed with the EEC in February and will be considered in its final recommendations on timing to the CIA Board at its meeting in March.

The Accreditation Committee thanks the members and universities who have participated in the dialogue so far, and is committed to ensuring regular communication occurs throughout the process.

Questions and comments may continue to be directed to accreditation@actuaries.ca

Rob Stapleford, FCIA, is chair of the CIA Accreditation Committee.


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