Key changes

A future-ready syllabus with an enhanced learning experience

Reflecting CIPFA's status as an international institute based in the UK, the updated name of the Professional Accountancy Qualification will be used across the globe — wherever our students are, they will be united in the pursuit of the CIPFA PAQ.

The new name will also differentiate the updated syllabus from the pre-2022 qualification, known as the Professional Qualification (PQ) in the UK and the International Public Financial Management (IPFM) outside the UK, which will continue to run for the students currently enrolled on those programmes.

Qualification structure

Under the new structure, there are now four qualifications that lead to the CIPFA PAQ and the Chartered Public Finance Accountant (CPFA) designation: a certificate and three diplomas.

The new qualifications have been mapped by CIPFA as being equivalent to undergraduate study to postgraduate study. This will aid students as they move through the qualification in stages and enable students to achieve awards en route. Find out more about the qualification structure.

Content updates

As part of the syllabus review, there is now a greater emphasis on topics such as sustainability, data analysis, business planning and implementing business change and ethics.

As finance professionals are becoming increasingly central to the effort of protecting our places and the planet, sustainability, green finance, environmental reporting and performance measures, now feature across the modules. There is also an emphasis on strategic delivery in a changing environment and procuring sustainably.

Public sector accountants also need to understand the impact of technology on financial management. Big data and data analytics are considered across several modules and new technologies are explored, from cloud computing, cyber risk and security, internet of things, mobile and communication technology, automation and artificial intelligence, blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

As the first professional accountancy body in the UK to adopt the International Ethical Standards Board of Accountants Code as our own Standard of Professional Practice on Ethics (SOPP on Ethics), there is a renewed focus on ethics. All students will need to complete our ethics e-learning before they begin their studies and should refer to it throughout their learning journey.

Membership grades

We will continue to offer our students the opportunity to attain different membership grades at the conclusion of each level. Information about the membership grades will be announced in the coming months.

The membership grades are being aligned to the qualification to aid students in progressing through to full membership and their Chartered Public Finance Accountant (CPFA) designation. This will also support those who choose not to progress through to full CPFA status, but who wish to continue their relationship with CIPFA and demonstrate their achievements through the use of designations.

Learning options

Our training will continue to offer flexibility and choice for all our students, regardless of their location and learning preferences. Alongside the review of the qualification syllabus, we have also taken the opportunity to review and improve the way in which we teach our qualification.

A new learner management system will be introduced in 2022. It will be available to all students – those studying the pre-2022 qualifications and those beginning the updated syllabus – and its features and capabilities will mean a much improved digital and remote learning experience.

The e-assessment platform will also be introduced in 2022 and will be available to all students. It will enable students to use Microsoft Office files in their exams to better support the development of their technical competencies, while new exam questions will encourage and test their soft skills.

Contact us

If you have any questions about the introduction of the new syllabus, please contact us at