The UAP – A Rigorous Piece of the CIA Education System


By Alicia Rollo, CHRL

As we wrap up the third year of the CIA’s University Accreditation Program (UAP) and conduct its first major review, it is timely to discuss rigour.

Initial Principles and Approach

We believe that enhancing ties with universities makes the actuarial profession in Canada stronger.

When the UAP policy was published in 2010 for implementation in the fall of 2012, it laid out the broad principles under which the program would be governed, the minimum requirements that accredited universities must meet, and the conditions under which a candidate could be granted credit for some of the CIA’s preliminary educational requirements. It also laid out the requirements for the necessary short- and long-term reviews that would serve as an opportunity to reflect on the first principles and objectives of the program, ensuring that it continues to meet the needs of the Institute and its stakeholders.


Briefly, for readers who are less familiar with the UAP, the CIA model is course-by-course accreditation mapped to the CIA, Society of Actuaries (SOA), and Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) preliminary education syllabi, as opposed to degree or program accreditation used in some other actuarial organizations around the world. The decision to go forward with this model was made to allow the CIA to closely monitor each university’s ability to map, teach, and test the learning objectives of the syllabi. There are advantages and disadvantages to both models, and program accreditation remains a possibility for consideration.

The UAP offers candidates the option of applying for credit for preliminary exams FM, MFE, MLC, LC (CAS candidates only), and C, with between one and four courses required for each exam credit, at the minimum established grade, which is always at least B/70 with some courses requiring grades as high as A/90. We set these grades by examining the historical grade distributions for each accredited course and by comparing the estimated number of exemptions to the overall passing percentages for SOA/CAS exams. Minimum course grades were set with a margin to erring on the university exemptions being a higher standard. This has proven true with an overall average passing percentage for the UAP of 36.5% across all 11 accredited universities, which we observe to be lower than the overall passing percentage on SOA preliminary exams.

Candidates must write exams P and ST (CAS candidates only), and there are no Fellowship credits available through the UAP. Exams P and ST were not included in the program because the majority of required courses are taught outside the actuarial science department, and are therefore beyond the scope of monitoring by the CIA and the accreditation actuary (AcA) in each university. The monitoring of courses is just one of the ways in which the CIA applies rigour to the UAP.

So what are the other means to ensure that it remains a solid and rigorous approach to preliminary education? There are several formal mechanisms, such as the policy, guidelines, and best practices that outline the required syllabus coverage (85 percent or greater), examination procedures (80 percent of the final grade must come from examination), and minimum grade required for each course for credit. Where syllabus mapping is less than 100%, universities must provide detail on what additional material is covered that is relevant to the profession.

Representation of the Profession within Universities

Every university must have a CIA-appointed AcA who is a Fellow. The AcA is the eyes and ears of the CIA within the university, and is the main contact for all communication and for the administration of the UAP. The Institute relies on the AcA’s collaboration to promote and administer UAP requirements internally. Therefore, the CIA stays in close contact with AcAs at all accredited universities through periodic calls to obtain feedback from the universities, and to provide information including advance notice of policy changes to universities and best practices. The CIA Accreditation Committee (AC), AcAs, and staff also hold an annual joint meeting to discuss the strategy and direction of the UAP, as well as its day-to-day administration.

The UAP policy also outlines requirements for additional faculty, to ensure adequate representation of the profession at the university. At the course instruction level, confirmation by individual course instructors through the Instructor Acknowledgement Form provides the CIA with the assurance and evidence that every accredited course meets the CIA’s syllabus and examination requirements, prior to the Institute granting credit to candidates. Should a course not meet the requirements, it would not be eligible for UAP credit. The form also collects vital data on class size, the number of students at or above the required grade, the average grade, and other information for monitoring purposes, which is valuable for the CIA to collect and analyze over time in relation to the potential for grade inflation.

Annual Reviews

Additional rigour is provided through the annual external examiner (EE) visit to each university. The one-and-a-half-day visits include a review of examinations and course grade distributions, and one-on-one meetings with the AcA, instructors, and members of the university leadership, including the dean, vice-dean, and department head. The EE also verifies the university’s ongoing compliance with the CIA’s policies, guidelines, and best practices for its continued accreditation.

Finally, the program is continually monitored by the Eligibility and Education Council (EEC) and CIA Board on a formal and informal basis.

Day-to-Day Administration

In addition to the formal monitoring and control mechanisms, there is also the day-to-day administration, which adds significant rigour to the program. At the Head Office, our staff team (Joseph Gabriel, staff actuary, education; Caroline Thebault, coordinator, education and professional development; and I) are kept busy working with the 11 universities, responding to member and candidate inquiries, tracking syllabus mapping, developing transitional rules as university courses and/or the UAP syllabus change, organizing visits to students, coordinating the EE reviews, collecting course outlines at the beginning of each semester, and gathering and analyzing data from instructor acknowledgement forms at the end of each course. We review student applications for UAP credit and coordinate the sharing of their data with the SOA and CAS, which allows candidates to travel seamlessly through their education systems toward the completion of the CIA’s additional eligibility requirements.

Ongoing Monitoring

We actively monitor the UAP environment for potential issues and seek solutions that will meet the needs of the profession, universities, and students. We are also putting mechanisms in place to track data so that we can follow students’ progress through Fellowship exams to confirm that candidates receiving UAP exemptions have the appropriate foundational knowledge to be successful in later Fellowship exams.

The combined efforts of the CIA Board, EEC, AC, AcAs, faculty of the accredited universities, and CIA staff are ensuring that the program remains a viable and strategic component of the CIA’s education system and that it produces candidates with the requisite knowledge to carry them through their later studies to the ultimate achievement of the FCIA designation.

Recent UAP Member Survey

Finally, I thought that it would be interesting to share a few preliminary results from our recent member survey on the UAP. As part of the first-principles review, we wanted to gauge members’ UAP awareness, perceptions, knowledge and opinions. With more than 600 responses at the time of this article, the survey is already providing us with important insights into the way forward.

Please watch for more information regarding the survey results and the final report on the UAP first-principles review in the fall.

We are pleased with and proud of our progress as the only actuarial organization in North America to implement a university accreditation system. There is still a great deal to accomplish as we review, refine, and continually enhance the Canadian education system with the help of our education partners.

Our Thanks to Those Who Paved the Way

We are enormously thankful for the work of the many volunteers and members of the academic community who have helped to get us here. Early reports and recommendations for a university-based education system in North America date back to the 1960s, and have helped build the UAP of today. The combined strength of the actuarial profession in Canada and our accredited universities will ensure that the CIA’s education system continues to develop outstanding actuarial professionals for the future.

Questions and comments can be directed to

Alicia Rollo, CHRL, is the CIA’s director of membership, education, and professional development.

Canadian Institute of Actuaries/Institut canadien des actuaires