AAT: a strong alternative to university

Going to university used to be the ultimate achievement for many young professionals, and the only way to secure a successful career. But times are changing.

Since the advent of UK tuition fees in 1998, university has become increasingly too expensive for many students.

But in the last few years a number of prestigious employers, including PwC, Penguin publishing and Ernst & Young, have recognised this and broadened their recruitment schemes to include school leavers and apprentices.

Shifting mindsets

This more inclusive approach is also happening on an international level.

In Myanmar, for example, some bright young students are opting for AAT courses over university and many employers are recognising that graduates aren’t the only talent.

Pui San had to give up university due to financial constraints. She’d been awarded a university scholarship, but this only covered the costs for the first year. Pui had no way to continue and ended up leaving to start a full-time job when she was 20.

“I was not able to complete my studies in college as it was so expensive but then when my employer recommended AAT, I signed up to do level one,” she notes. “I was working as a Junior Account Assistant at the time and my main job was data entry for senior-level accountants.”

Flexibility with AAT study

Pui San found the AAT course much more flexible than university, especially when it came to taking exams.

“Students are allowed to set and arrange their own exam date (except the synoptic assessment) which allows part-time students, like me, to be well-prepared and to fit it in around work,” she notes.

After embarking on her AAT course, Pui San found that she was able to take on additional responsibilities at her work. “My job scope has become wider, not just doing the data entries but also involving closing accounts for audit and tax submission purposes,” she says.

Thanks to part-time study alongside working, Pui is putting her studies into practice which will help strengthen her overall understanding.

Pui San has also seen her own confidence and efficiency improving. “I didn’t have any sort of accounting qualification before studying AAT but now, with this qualification, I can expand my future career opportunities.”

What employers want

AAT tutor Meiyoke Pak, says employers in Malaysia are focusing more on an employees’ skill set and attitude rather than their academic qualifications now.

“Employers do appreciate candidates from reputable universities but professional qualifications are very much sought after too as employers recognise that these also adhere to high standards,” she notes.

And AAT doesn’t just train students in bookkeeping and accountancy, but also gives students transferrable skills, which means they can hit the ground running at work.

“One of the most valuable lessons students learn would be identifying problems at work, and recommending solutions and actions e.g. standard operating procedures to tighten the processes,” she notes.

Such courses can also help when it comes to analysing and interpreting the accounts for business improvement and understanding credit management.

“Credit management is key to today’s businesses especially for local businesses here, where it is so competitive that businesses are finding it hard to pay their bills,” says Pak.

Grow in confidence

Pak, who has been an AAT tutor since 1994 and is a former CEO of an education group, says taking an AAT course has had a significant impact on Pui San.

“Pui San acknowledged that AAT had increased her confidence and abilities at work; as she sees relevance of her study to work, and it was easy for her to apply her knowledge and relate it easily to situations at work,” she notes.

“It’s also really helped her English and report-writing skills.”

Having to quit university because of financial issues would have been very tough, but Pui has taken charge of her life and is creating the career she wants thanks to AAT.

In summary

Increasing numbers of students like Pui San are finding university costs too prohibitive and are opting for alternative vocational courses like AAT to help further their skills and career. What feels like an ending, can in fact become a whole new start.

And the positives continue. AAT courses are very flexible, and can be run in the evenings, or fit in alongside a full-time job; you just need to choose the way that works for you. They can also help students progress more rapidly in their career, with the ability to train alongside work experience.

And the icing on the cake is that AAT qualifications are internationally recognised, so the sky’s the limit.

Check out approved training providers for AAT worldwide here

Further reading on alternatives to university:

Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.

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