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An Introduction to IFAC's International Panel on Accountancy Education

Last updated: 22 Apr 2024 09:00 Posted in: AIA

Greg Owens, Director of Global Assurance at BDO, highlights the work of the IFAC International Panel on Accountancy Education.

In today’s ever-evolving business landscape, ensuring that current and future generations of professional accountants are equipped to navigate the challenges and opportunities ahead is paramount. This is where the International Panel on Accountancy Education (IPAE) plays a crucial role. Established by the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), as a successor to the International Accounting Education Standards Board (IAESB), the IPAE serves as a global driving force for high-quality accountancy education, acting as a guiding light for preparing future-ready professionals.

Three pillars of expertise

The IPAE’s work rests on three pillars of expertise:

  1. Strategic advisors

The IPAE provides crucial guidance to IFAC’s accountancy education work plan, ensuring that it remains relevant and addresses the most pressing needs of the accountancy profession. By analysing emerging trends like technology integration and sustainability, the IPAE recommends specific actions and initiatives to future-proof accountancy education.

  1. Global advocates

Members of the IPAE act as champions for high-quality accountancy education, both internationally and in their local jurisdictions. They work tirelessly to raise awareness about the importance of robust educational standards and encourage stakeholders to invest in continuous improvement. Through this advocacy, the IPAE fosters a global ecosystem that prioritises excellence in preparing future accountants.

  1. Resource connectors

The panel serves as a vital link between IFAC’s vast repository of resources and professional accountancy organisations around the world. Members share best practice and knowledge exchange, and provide practical support to professional accountancy organisations seeking to enhance their educational programmes. This collaborative approach ensures that all corners of the world benefit from the IPAE’s expertise and IFAC’s resources.

As the role of the IPAE has continued to evolve, it has recently announced plans to focus on standard-setting activities to maintain the International Education Standards. The International Education Standards, issued by IFAC, set forth the principles that professional accountancy organisations should follow to build a national accountancy profession that is fully capable of fulfilling the complex demands economies and societies place on it.

The International Education Standards are authoritative and are used by IFAC member organisations when setting education requirements for professional accountants and aspiring professional accountants. They are also informative for educational organisations, employers, regulators, government authorities and any other stakeholders who support the learning and development of aspiring professional accountants.

Impacting the landscape

The IPAE’s work has significantly impacted the landscape of accountancy education:

  • Roadmap for professional accountancy organisations worldwide

The IPAE has continued to build on the learning outcomes-based approach described in the International Education Standards, which has played a pivotal role in establishing the competencies and skills that accountants need to thrive in the 21st century. The framework of interdependent International Education Standards serve as a roadmap for professional accountancy organisations worldwide, guiding them in tailoring their educational programmes to meet the demands of tomorrow’s workplace.

  • Promoting sustainability in education

Recognising the growing importance of sustainability in the business world, the IPAE has actively championed its integration into accountancy education. Through research, extensive outreach and resource development, the IPAE is ensuring that future accountants are equipped to address and report on sustainability matters. We will go into more detail on this later in this article.

  • Supporting PAOs in emerging economies

The IPAE actively engages with professional accountancy organisations in developing nations. We provide tailored support and resources to support adoption and implementation of the International Education Standards and strengthen their accountancy educational systems. This commitment to inclusivity ensures that the benefits of high‑quality accountancy education reach all corners of the globe.

The future work of the IPAE

As the accounting profession continues to evolve, the IPAE remains at the forefront, proactively shaping the future of accountancy education. Whether it’s addressing the impact of new technologies, fostering critical thinking skills or promoting ethical leadership, the IPAE is unwavering in its commitment to preparing future accountants who are not only technically adept but also adaptable, responsible and ready to make a positive impact on the world – with professional accountants who are able to protect the public interest.

By actively engaging with stakeholders, advocating for excellence and continuously adapting to the changing needs of the profession, the IPAE is ensuring that the next generation of accountants will be equipped to navigate the dynamic landscape of the future, contributing to a more sustainable and prosperous global economy.

The IPAE strategic priorities

As we complete Q1 of 2024, the IPAE has set itself an ambitious set of strategic priorities.


Recognising the significant shift in stakeholder demands and increasingly important business imperative for relevant and reliable sustainability related disclosure, reporting and assurance, the IPAE has created the sustainability reporting project.

The IPAE, together with IFAC staff, have undertaken information gathering activities including over 70 stakeholder engagements, a literature review and a global stakeholder survey with over 300 responses from 78 countries.

These activities:

  • affirmed the importance of sustainability as an area of skills development for current and future professional accountants; and
  • supported the need to revise the International Education Standards to address sustainability reporting and assurance competence skills and to recognise the evolving role of professional accountants in this important area.

As IFAC’s former CEO Kevin Dancey said: ‘As sustainability reporting and assurance become mainstream, professional accountants have a unique opportunity to lead and bring value. Professional accountants should begin their journey now to develop or enhance sustainability reporting and assurance abilities. It is imperative that we all commit to personal professional development, ensuring that we are ready to meet the moment with the competence and due care that define our profession.’

Revision of International Education Standard 6

Reflecting innovations in assessment methodologies and best practices, the IPAE has also commenced a review of IES 6 ‘Assessment of Professional Competence’. Likely changes will include a broadening of potential types of assessment, increased focus on fairness and other factors when setting assessments and additional explanatory material to support implementation of the standard.

Attractiveness of the profession

The IPAE will provide advice and support to IFAC on knowledge products that respond to accountancy education elements of attracting and retaining talented individuals in the profession, as described in IFAC’s recent paper ‘Attractiveness of the profession’.

Artificial intelligence

The IPAE will consider the impact of artificial intelligence on accountancy education, and how the profession can respond effectively.

Final words

The work of the IPAE, everyone involved in accountancy education and the need for innovation to support the education of our thriving profession will continue. As we close out this article, there are two things I’d like to say.

Firstly, I want to acknowledge the incredibly valuable work that the volunteer members of the IPAE – our Chair Anne-Marie Vitale and the outstanding IFAC staff that support us – do to help shine a spotlight on the critically important areas of accountancy education. We are incredibly fortunate that membership of the IPAE comprises representatives from professional accounting organisations, academia, regulators and accounting firms from right across the globe.

Secondly, as we continue our work this year, I want to set a personal challenge to every one of us as professional accountants. Let’s take a serious look at the professional challenges and opportunities that are presenting themselves to each of us now and take the time to perform an inventory of our skills to help us individually identify where we really need to boost our skills


Author Biography

Greg Owens is currently a Director in BDO’s Global Assurance Department and was nominated by BDO LLP to serve on the International Panel on Accountancy Education (IPAE) in 2019 and re-appointed in 2021.

"I want to set a personal challenge to every one of us as professional accountants. Let’s take a serious look at the professional challenges and opportunities that are presenting themselves to each of us now and take the time to perform an inventory of our skills to help us individually identify where we really need to boost our skills"

Greg Owens, Director of Global Assurance at BDO