The Dutch educational system for chartered accountants

A brief summary

The theoretical study for all prospective chartered accountants ('registeraccountant') is embedded in the Bachelor-Master system. The postgraduate programmes are mainly aimed at (further) specialization in (financial) auditing and (external) reporting. The basis for these programmes is shaped by Bachelor- and Master-programmes leading to Bsc and MSc degrees in Accountancy or Business Economics. Programme content is determined by the Directive 2006/43/EC (as translated in national legislation), the learning outcomes determined by the CEA (Commissie Eindtermen Accountantsopleiding) and the broader (general) objectives of the Bachelor and or Master programme.

The current theoretical RA syllabus

The full syllabus is provided by seven (academic) universities in the Netherlands and the University of the Netherlands Antilles at Curacao. The Bachelor part of the syllabus is also provided by professional universities. Bachelors from these universities have to complete a so called pre-Master (deficiency) programme before being admitted to the academic Master programme which, together with the postgraduate programme, leads to the completion of the theoretical RA syllabus.

Today, the theoretical study for all prospective chartered accountants is embedded in the Bachelor Master system. The implementation of the new Act on Higher Education and Scientific Research (with the Bachelor-Master structure) necessitated a choice regarding the university programme. As a result of the policy adopted to ensure a high professional level based on academic education, the RA title was linked to the Master of Science degree as from the academic year 2005-2006.

Prerequisite 

From then on, all universities have set the MSc degree as a prerequisite for admission to the postgraduate RA programme. The full syllabus is provided by seven (academic) universities in the Netherlands and by the University of the Netherlands Antilles at Curacao.

The Bachelor part of the syllabus is also provided by fifteen universities of applied sciences. Bachelors from these universities have to complete a so called pre-Master (deficiency) programme before being admitted to the Master programme which - together with the postgraduate programme- leads to the completion of the theoretical RA syllabus.

The postgraduate programmes are mainly aimed at (further) specialization in (financial) auditing and (external) reporting. The basis for these programmes is shaped by Bachelor and Master programmes leading to Bsc and MSc degrees in Accountancy or in Business Economics.

Programme content is determined by the Directive 2006/43/EC (as translated in national legislation) and by the broader (general) objectives of the Bachelor and or Master programme concerned.

Each university may design and assess its programmes according to its own (educational) philosophy - as long as the examination requirements / learning outcomes for the theoretical RA syllabus are met. Therefore also the postgraduate RA programmes vary in content and duration, depending on the previous / connected Bachelor and Masterprogrammes that have been completed. 

Practical experience training and assessment

In 1996, due to the requirements formulated in the Directive 2006/43/EC for statutory audits of annual accounts, also a three-year practical experience training programme, including a final practical examination, became an obligatory requirement for all RA students.

For RA students, practical experience can be gained after obtaining a university degree (Bachelor or Master) in accountancy/accounting or Business Economics. In the final phase of the theoretical syllabus (starting with the Master or with the postgraduate programme) all students combine their study with working for accounting firms and internal audit departments.  From then on, they are also allowed to start the practical training programme. Preparation for the practical part of the final examination may start after admittance to the third year of practical training. The final examination can only take place after the certificate for the full theoretical programme has been obtained.

Practical training is almost full-time: four days a week, and one day available for classes. The internship spans three years and is divided into six half year semesters; at least 500 qualifying hours must be completed in each semester. The practical training programme is based on year plans and semester reports. From the second up until the fifth semester an essay has to be written on a relevant case. The three year programme is finalised by a thesis that must be defended in the final practical examination.

The main objective of the (work-based) training programme is the application of knowledge at the appropriate level. Every trainee is assigned a mentor (a certified RA) and placed in an environment where his or her activities are aligned to the theoretical level attained that far. During the practical training, special attention is given to the development of professional skills, ethics and behaviour. Trainees also have to demonstrate their knowledge of the theoretical syllabus, especially in the areas of Auditing and Assurance, Accounting Information Systems (administrative organization and internal control) and Financial Accounting and Reporting.

Governance and quality assurance of the practical training programme

The NBA Internship Council is charged with the organisation and implementation of the practical training programme and related examinations. In cooperation with approximately 25 internship offices, the Internship Council is responsible for the overall supervision and quality control of practical experience training. Internship offices are evaluated and visited by an evaluation committee every two years. The committee consists of members of the Internship Council and sometimes includes a member of other internship offices. The practical experience programme is also supervised by the CEA (Commissie Eindtermen Accountantsopleiding).