The move will mark the conclusion of a widespread review process which has included the top 20 firms in a last ditch attempt to save the institute from becoming largely irrelevant if its training function was removed.
Institute Education and Training executive director Brian Chiplin said: 'We want the new qualification to be in at the latest for September 2001 but we are looking to get it in for September 2000, for the first examinations in December.'
The furore over training erupted earlier this year when institute members voted against introducing optional examination papers or 'electives'.
Big Five firms reacted with dismay at the decision to keep the existing exams despite pressure to introduce a new type of test which would enable accountancy students to become more specialist and therefore more appropriate to the work of the largest firms.
PricewaterhouseCoopers managing partner Peter Smith hinted on the eve of the firm's first merger anniversary that it was looking at the implications of taking training in-house.
PwC's withdrawal would be a massive blow for the institute as the firm's trainees account for more than a third of the institute's annual intake of 4,200 students.
Although institute deputy president Graham Ward said that there was no deadline to introducing a new type of exam because 'it is important that we get it right', Chiplin's confession confirms that the institute is under pressure to produce something workable.
Ward said, however, that any new system would be based around the theme of making the content more relevant to what students do in the office, including credits for practical skills of dealing with clients and being able to prepare coherent advice rather than learning from books.
'People are positive about it. They know that we want to work with them to achieve something that is sensible,' he said.
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