The UAP – It’s About More Than Accreditation

By Mary Millard, FCIA

It is hard to believe that the University Accreditation Program (UAP) has already been in effect for three years. With the wind-up of our third year of offering accredited courses at the University of Western Ontario and while preparing for our external examiner review, I paused to reflect on the challenges and successes of the UAP.

As we are an accredited university, students in our actuarial science programs have clearly benefited from having the opportunity to earn accreditation for some of the preliminary Society of Actuaries (SOA) and Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) exams required for the FCIA designation, but what strikes me most is how the benefits of implementing the UAP go way beyond the accreditation itself.

At Western we implemented an informal system of peer review for our accredited courses and this is a process that has worked well, with the end result being an improvement in the quality of our course exams and grading. This peer review system has provided opportunities for collaboration with colleagues on teaching and testing strategies and is something that some of us have carried over to non-accredited courses. Our courses and programs are strengthened as a result of the peer review process.

While we hope to see a further increase in student uptake on the UAP, there is no doubt that student awareness and interest in the accreditation program is building. However, not all of them choose the accreditation path for preliminary exams and others may not qualify. These students still benefit, though, as I believe they are better prepared to write the SOA/CAS preliminary exams as a result of the accreditation process. For example, with the relatively recent changes in the SOA MLC syllabus, there is now a short answer component to this exam. Feedback from students who recently wrote the MLC exam was along the lines that the style of their university life contingency tests/exams helped better prepare them for the MLC exam.

The CIA accreditation program has been instrumental in raising the profile of the actuarial profession in general and of our actuarial science programs. I have seen this at high school open houses and other such initiatives. The fact that there is an actuarial accreditation program and students may be able to receive exemption for some preliminary professional actuarial exams with courses completed as part of their degree piques the interest of not only students but also their parents. Accreditation programs for engineering, accounting, and other professions are well established at the university level in Canada and there is general appeal in being able to use courses completed as part of a university degree towards professional accreditation. With the implementation of the UAP there has been increased interest in the actuarial profession among young students and their parents, resulting in increased interest in actuarial science programs.

There has been a lot of learning involved in the implementation of the UAP, and challenges along the way, but I think that in working out these challenges, the universities and the CIA have only strengthened their relationships. Furthermore, being able to meet and regularly connect with accreditation actuaries (AcAs) from other universities and obtain their opinions and feedback has been invaluable. I also really appreciate the support of my academic and administrative colleagues in my AcA role.

Being involved with the UAP over the past three years, both as an instructor of an accredited course and in my role as AcA, has enabled me to directly observe the many benefits of this program. I look forward to its further development and other CIA educational initiatives.

Mary Millard, FCIA, is the AcA at the University of Western Ontario.

Canadian Institute of Actuaries/Institut canadien des actuaires