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Insight into the Accreditation Process

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By Chris Fievoli, FCIA

On March 1, the CIA was visited by Jane Curtis, President-elect of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries in the United Kingdom. Speaking to CIA members in Toronto, she described the university accreditation system in the UK, which is of particular interest to the CIA as we embark upon our own accreditation process.

There are a number of parallels between the UK system and that used by the CIA. The UK system is essentially comprised of four stages: core technical, core applications, specialist technical, and specialist applications. Candidates can meet these requirements through the completion of exams and residential courses. As with the Canadian system, there is also a professionalism course and a practical work requirement.

The Institute and Faculty, though, also offers exemptions for successful completion of approved university courses. Exemptions are available for all the core technical subjects at the undergraduate level. In addition, postgraduate courses can generate exemptions for up to two core application and two specialist technical subjects. A total of 13 universities have been approved for exemptions. These include schools that have a program with a long history and a strong research record (University of Waterloo being one of them), top-end universities favoured by employers, and new providers seen to have a good reputation.

Prior to 2005, exemptions were granted on a subject by subject basis. That was before the Morris report, which investigated the actuarial profession in the UK in light of the near-collapse of Equitable Life. One of the report’s conclusions was that the profession should consider moving towards more of a university-based education, with individual universities given greater freedom to teach basic actuarial education. At the same time, the profession would be expected to focus its oversight more on the fellowship-level examinations. In response to that, the Faculty and Institute moved to what we would call a program accreditation model; in other words, exemptions would be granted for multiple exams upon successful completion of a university program, as opposed to mapping university courses to specific exams. The profession has maintained a strong oversight of the programs offered by universities, making extensive use of independent examiners. Universities are expected to maintain standards, and there is one example of an exemption agreement being withdrawn for a university failing to do so.

The experience in the UK has been positive. Candidates with exemptions have performed just as well in the upper-level exams as those who followed the traditional route. As well, employers have become more accepting of students with exemptions. It is apparent that the actuarial profession in the UK has very strongly embraced the concept of university accreditation.

As the CIA moves in the same direction, it will be essential for us to pay close attention to the UK’s experience. The course-by-course system that the CIA will be following has been used by the Institute and Faculty for several years. Their experience with independent examiners and their general oversight process will also provide valuable lessons for the profession in Canada. Ms. Curtis’ presentation demonstrated that a large, reputable actuarial organization can successfully integrate a university system into the qualification process.

Chris Fievoli, FCIA, is the resident actuary at the Canadian Institute of Actuaries.


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