Tutor profile: Chris Burnell

Picture of students in class
Headshot of Chris Burnell By Chris Burnell, BPP Tutor

22 June 2016

Our tutors are full of great advice and have often been where our students are: we catch up with Chris Burnell, BPP tutor, on the routes available to students, and he highlights why it’s important to talk to your colleagues on a range of issues – whether that be technical questions or Justin Bieber!

From the Arthur Andersen scholarship to post-qualification

I had committed to finance after winning a place on the Arthur Andersen scholarship scheme after my A-levels, which helped fund some travel and my degree studies. Whilst I knew that I broadly wanted to study in finance, it took me a while to work out the sheer scale of the opportunities within the industry, so I’ll admit to whilst committing fairly early on, I was pretty ‘green’ in terms of what I understood ‘accounting’ to be.

I studied Commerce at the University of Birmingham and am therefore a BCom (hardly anyone outside of South Africa, Australia, Canada or New Zealand know what a BCom is). I had originally started studying Money, Banking and Finance, but realised after my first year that I didn’t want to focus so specifically on banking and decided to transfer to Commerce; a largely practical finance qualification that encompasses finance, economics, strategy, HR, supply chain management - a lot of the same subjects covered by the CA qualification.

I wanted to do a practical/vocational subject, that had a solid financial foundation and commerce fitted the bill perfectly. Thankfully, my Professor was very helpful and allowed me to switch programmes and explained the credit I earned from my first year modules.

Lesson one: it’s not too late to change if you feel as though you have made a mistake and even if you have made a mistake, take the positives out of it and learn from it!

I’m actually an ACA. Like the CA it has a strong technical focus, with latter focus on advisory skills; crucial for anyone working in a consulting role.

Why it’s great being a chartered accountant

The transferable skills and experience from an accounting qualification and the job that goes with it, undoubtedly helps you to shape your career path. There are so many opportunities that I am still astonished by the different routes your career can take you at various points, provided you are in the right place at the right time and you are willing to give it a go.

Joining ICAS and BPP

I teach across a variety of accountancy qualification, and each of them have their own focus and way of doing things. Whatever I am teaching, I really enjoy the technical challenge. I teach TC Finance, Business Management, TPS Advanced Finance and a number of the case study days for ICAS. 

If I wasn’t teaching with ICAS and BPP, I’d be cycling around continental Europe (probably the Pyrenees), or across the US / Canada.

Running, running, running

I’m somewhat known for being surgically attached to my bike. I currently live in Weybridge and my daily return cycle commute is 50 miles/80 kilometres. This can form part of a structured weight-loss programme!

I spend most of my time running and cycling. I have run the Marathon des Sables, the London and Paris marathons, and cycled Land’s End to John O’ Groats, the entire Tour de France route and the Paris-Brest-Paris audax. Whilst I enjoy socialising at home and at work, it’s nice to have a hobby which gives you some ‘me-time’.

If not exercising, then I do enjoy the odd vintage event – I was the Goodwood revival festival Umbrella Jousting Champion of 2012 (pictured, right). Umbrella jousting is one of the many events held by ‘The Chap’ magazine as part of The Chap Olympiad. I’m not anywhere near as fully committed as some of these folks, but it’s quite good fun!

Advice for students

  • Work consistently. Don’t leave it all until the end
  • Ask lots of questions. Your tutor will find it hard to know how you’re doing, unless you proactively get involved inside (and outside) of class. Your tutor is there to help
  • Enjoy it. Yes, enjoy it. In class, you get to spend loads of time together with your friends, but whilst at work, it might not be so easy. Work hard, but make the most of your time and let off steam at appropriate moments
  • Share your experiences. Whilst your tutor can help you, make sure you help each other through it as well. Talk about technical questions, work stresses, the latest Justin Bieber single – a problem shared is a problem halved!
  • At TPS and TPE, ALWAYS ask yourself the question, ‘Would a client pay for this advice?’. If the answer is no, then you need to re-focus your exam technique, which should also help you stay concise in your job at work.


  • CA Student blog

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