Fundamental to the pursuit of the professional project by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), in the early years of its existence, was the construction of the “well qualified” chartered accountant. This involved the introduction of onerous examinations, lengthy vocational training and significant financial hurdles, which together confined membership to the wealthier sections of society. Prior studies concentrate on the external implications of the ICAEW's policies, and have accepted, though left unexamined, the significance of entry hurdles in achieving exclusionary closure. The major focus of this paper is to examine how the ICAEW differentiated its membership from outsiders on the grounds of education and training and how the fledgling Institute employed credentials to distinguish the “chartered accountant” brand from non-chartered accountants. In further contrast to prior studies, we examine the internal tensions generated as a result of the precise shaping of the ICAEW's definition of the “well qualified” chartered accountant.

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