UP – a leader in internal auditing education for more than two decades

Posted on May 29, 2023

May is International Internal Audit Awareness Month, and the University of Pretoria’s Centre for Internal Auditing Excellence in the Faculty of Economic and Management SciencesDepartment of Auditing joins the global Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) in celebrating the internal audit profession this month.

As a relatively young profession, internal auditing is often confused with its more well-known and established counterpart, external auditing. Internal auditing if formally defined by the IIA as “an independent, objective assurance and consulting activity that adds value to and improves an organisation’s operations. It helps an organisation accomplish its objectives by bringing a systematic, disciplined approach to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of risk management, control, and governance processes.”

Internal auditors play a critical role in organisations and require diverse skill sets to deliver on their mandate in assisting organisations in the effective discharge of responsibilities, promoting the establishment of cost-effective controls, assessing risks, and recommending measures to mitigate those risks. As an integral part of the management team, internal auditors furnish top management with analyses, appraisals, counsel, and information on the activities they review (including organisational ethics). Internal audit is especially important in South Africa and is also a legal requirement for the public sector.

The varied responsibilities of internal auditors and the areas in which they execute their work is much broader than the financial focus of external auditors. External auditors are independent assurance providers on the financial statements of organisations, while internal auditors form an integral part of the organisation.

The IIA is the international professional association for internal auditors, headquartered in the United States of America. The IIA has affiliates in countries across the world and is represented locally by the IIA South Africa. The Internal auditing profession is unique because all professional internal auditors across the globe follow the same set of international standards to perform their work. Professional internal auditors worldwide require similar practical training and write the same professional exam to become an internationally recognised Certified Internal Auditor (CIA).

The University of Pretoria (UP) has been a leader in internal auditing education for more than two decades and was one of the first universities in the world to be endorsed by the IIA in 1999. From its humble beginnings at the end of the twentieth century, UP’s internal auditing programme and module offering have advanced to be one of the largest internal auditing programmes in the world.

In 2006, the IIA launched its new Internal Auditing Education Partnership (IAEP) programme. The new IAEP programme enabled universities to be endorsed at three levels—foundation level, comprehensive level, and top-level programmes that meet a set of stringent requirements to be endorsed as Centres of Internal Auditing Excellence (the highest accolade and level awarded by the IIA). UP was one of only five universities globally to obtain top-tier status when the new levels were launched in 2006.  UP’s Centre for Internal Auditing Excellence remains the only such centre outside North America and Europe, and the only one in Africa. The Centre has maintained its top-tier status since being endorsed in 2006.

The Centre for Internal Auditing Excellence continues to make a significant contribution to the internal auditing profession in South Africa, as well as globally. It offers internal auditing modules at both second- and third-year level, presents a full-time honours degree with specialisation in internal auditing, a coursework master’s degree in internal auditing, and PhD supervision on topics in the internal auditing field, presented by lecturers who are all CIAs.

The internal auditing honours degree is the flagship programme in the Centre and is well sought after by students, employers and the profession. In 2022, the honours programme attracted more than 400 applications for the 75 spaces that were available for the 2023 academic year. The admission numbers are determined by the recommendations from the Centre’s Advisory Board, which consists of senior internal audit practitioners. The Advisory Board meets four times a year and supports the Centre in various ways. This includes continually ensuring that the curriculum meets market expectations, advising on demand for UP graduates when determining admission numbers, assisting with fundraising, and offering students both internships and full-time employment after graduation. The programme has an exceptionally high recruitment rate, averaging about 90% per year, and this includes international organisations that recruit from the programme.

The Centre has produced many exceptional leaders in the internal auditing profession and prides itself in its alumni both in South Africa and abroad. The Centre’s alumni include partners in advisory firms in the USA, heads of internal audit of multinational entities in numerous countries, and internal audit managers at organisations located on four continents. Owing to the fact that internal auditing is an international profession, this also allows the Centre to foster and maintain valuable partnerships with other universities across the globe that offer internal auditing as a discipline. These partnerships are not only key for the sharing of curricula and the latest trending topics, but have enabled students and staff to participate in exchange programmes. The Centre has presented UP students with opportunities to study for a semester at universities abroad, such as Louisiana State University in the USA and Nanjing Audit University in China, and also hosted students from these institutions.

Lecturers from the Centre serve on various IIA committees in South Africa and internationally to also contribute to the professional body for internal auditing. A staff member from UP served as chairperson of the IIA’s Academic Relations Committee, which assesses universities for endorsement and develops curricula and requirements for internal auditing education at tertiary level.

UP’s Centre for Internal Auditing prides itself on the contribution it makes to the internal audit profession in South Africa and globally, and is proud to celebrate International Internal Audit Awareness Month with the global internal auditing community.

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