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By Duncan Mavin

Third-year student Lauriana Mandodi is one of hundreds of Ryerson business students who may be rethinking their course selections if a controversial proposal to merge two Ontario accounting institutions goes through.

“The biggest concern for students is mostly I’ve picked my stream, I’m ready to go, I’m almost graduating, and you are going to change everything almost at the last minute,’ ” she says.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario and the Chartered Management Accountants of Ontario have been negotiating the merger since the summer.

Currently, accounting majors must select certain courses in order to join either the ICAO or the CMAO.The decision determines whether students specialize in management or financial accounting.

While those titles don’t mean much to the general public, they can lead to very different career paths. Mandodi says many students don’t understand the impact of the merger and think it’s “just a bunch of acronyms.”

Details about the merger are available on the ICAO and CMAO websites, but William Yeung, president of the Ryerson Accounting and Investing Society, says most students have not thought about the impact on their course or career options.

Students are not eligible to vote on the merger. Accounting professor Vanessa Magness says the merger proposal will probably include some transitional provisions to assist students currently taking ICAO or CMAO exams.

Peter Varley, vice president of public affairs at the ICAO, says accounting students will continue to select courses based on their preferred specialization under the merged institution.

However, exact details are unavailable.Management at the ICAO and CMAO cancelled a vote on the proposal in the fall due to lack of support among members. Supporters of the merger argue that a unified institution will be in a stronger position to face job-market threats, such as MBA graduates, while opponents say the merger will dilute their specialist qualifications.

A CMAO spokesperson said students may have to wait until 2005 for more details.

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