Macbook Apple GLasses Laptop University Image by Alexandr Borecký from PixabayZoho has announced an exclusive partnership with the Open University. This will allow students to access Zoho Books to support their coursework. Students enrolled in the B250 Intermediate Financial Accounting module will be given free access to Zoho Books, its Accounting solution, for the duration of the module. B250 is part of the Accounting and Finance BSc (Honours) degree.

The application will help them practice the core accounting functions they are learning in the module. It will greatly help those with a kinaesthetic learning preference. As it allows them to practice what they are learning in a real-world environment rather than just from books.

Kevin Amor, Lecturer in Accounting and Financial Management and Qualification lead, commented, “We want to equip our students with the best skills and knowledge to navigate the ever-more complex world of accounting and finance. We’re committed to helping students become highly competitive in the market following graduation. Partnering with Zoho helps our students apply their learning and explore what it is like to use a best-in-class accounting software solution as they would in their future careers. This will add huge value to their employability.”

Prashant Ganti, Head of Product Management, Zoho Finance and Operations Suite
Prashant Ganti, Head of Product Management, Zoho Finance and Operations Suite

Prashant Ganti, Head of Product Management, Zoho Finance and Operations Suite, commented, “At Zoho, one of our goals is to help future finance professionals equip themselves with the practical know-how to succeed in the finance and accounting professions. Partnering with the UK’s educational institutions is a significant step towards achieving that goal. With Zoho Books, modern accounting software, students will not only be able to practice and prepare to handle their clients’ day-to-day operations but also their own firm’s operations, helping them succeed in their professions.”

What will students get?

Zoho Books is VAT-compliant accounting software that will enable students to practice day-to-day accounting tasks such as:

  • accounts receivable
  • accounts payable
  • bank reconciliation
  • project billing
  • manual journals
  • financial reporting
  • chart of accounts

The software also supports several Making Tax Digital features, which students can practice for, including VAT MOSS (Mini One Stop Shop), OSS (One Stop Shop), and CIS (Construction Industry Scheme). They will be able to perform actions for tax and regulatory compliance, such as generating VAT returns and reports. Students can also download the iOS and Android Zoho Books applications to continue using the software even when not at a desk.

Amor commented, “This is a great opportunity for our accounting students. Having access to real, professional accounting software during their studies will not only increase the authenticity of their study activities but will also significantly increase their employability as future professional accountants.

“So far, we have only launched the Level 1 modules but already have more than 1,200 registered students. The Level 2 and 3 modules will roll out over the next 18 months. With these kinds of figures, the new degree is shaping up to be one of the UK’s largest accounting and finance degrees.

“The OU caters to a wide diversity of students, so, for us, ease of use was a crucial factor in selecting a software partner. We found Zoho Books not only offers the full suite of functionality we expect from professional accounting software. But also to be highly intuitive to use.”

How will this work

Enterprise Times asked Ganti about some of the details behind this initiative. I asked him how the licensing works. He replied,

“The students of Open University enrolled in the Intermediate Financial Accounting (B250) module in the BSc (Honours) Accounting and Finance degree. They can sign up through this link for Zoho Books with their student ID to practice all the accounting concepts that they have learnt.”

Ganti clarified that each student has access to their organisation. Zoho Books supports bank account reconciliation with a large number of banks worldwide. I asked how bank feeds are supported so that students can learn how to perform bank reconciliation.

“Since this is a student edition, they can download any sample statement online in the CSV, TSV, OFX and QIF file formats and import them into Zoho Books to reconcile them.”

Therefore, students can create their “bank” transactions in an Excel spreadsheet for later reconciliation. Zoho expects all 1,200 students to take advantage of this offer, as the practical help on the course will be very useful.

Ultimately, it means that Zoho is supporting future finance professionals with industry-standard software. This might also increase the chance of them using Zoho Books once they have graduated or even before. Most OU students are mature students. Familiarity with the user-friendly software will help future selection decisions, Zoho no doubt hopes.

About Zoho Books

Zoho Books is HMRC-recognised, comprehensive, cloud-based accounting software. It helps businesses manage their finances, perform core accounting functions, track product stock levels, automate bank reconciliation, generate Bankers Automated Clearing System (BACS) files to pay vendors in bulk, manage projects, and stay VAT-compliant.

Businesses can also file VAT directly to the HMRC. Additionally, they can connect to popular payment gateways like Square, Stripe, and GoCardless. To receive online payments from customers and get paid faster, thereby increasing their cash flow. The software also comes with other advanced capabilities like built-in order management, budgeting, workflow automation, customisations, advanced business analytics, and more. It is compatible in sixteen countries around the world.

Zoho Books also integrates with many of the other Zoho Apps. Thus enabling organisations to build a complete suite of software to manage their business operations. It launched Zoho Schools in India. Which now has six schools and more than 1,600 students who have graduated over the last 19 years they have existed. The schools teach skills relevant to a career in software. Students are paid a stipend, and once they graduate are employed by Zoho.

Bridging the Digital Skills Gap

This is just Zoho’s latest initiative to close the digital skills gap. The company has also invested in other education initiatives and partnerships worldwide.

Zoho is committed to helping to close the digital skills gap, including that often seen between education and industry. It has launched other initiatives, such as Zoho Schools, a meaningful alternative to conventional college education. Zoho also works with education establishments around the world. To help students understand and experience real-world business applications of their learning. Such initiatives in Europe include:

  • The Young Creator Programme helps students learn how to code through the low-code platform Zoho Creator. Which recently completed a course with Nottingham Business School students at Nottingham University.
  • For the last four years, it has worked with the Fontys School of Business and Communication in The Netherlands. To run a course centred around Zoho CRM Plus, Zoho’s customer experience platform.

I asked Ganti if Zoho will expand this initiative to other univerisities. He answered, “Yes, we are looking to provide similar schemes to other universities in the UK. In India, we are already partnered with a university and a couple of leading colleges and educational and training institutions to provide similar schemes.”

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

This is a win-win situation for both the Open University and Zoho. The University gains access for students to a mature accounting solution, which will enable students to gain the practical experience that is often missing in finance courses. The software licensing is provided free, and as it is timebound by the duration of the module, the cost to Zoho is minimal. Universities are, therefore, gaining access without an outlay that would eat into their limited funds.

For Zoho, it gets exposure for their brand to the next generation of accountants. With 1,200 people already registered for this course, it is a significant number compared to many other universities. Also, many of these students may want to consider running a business and are taking the course to learn how to deal with finance. It will be interesting to see how many students re-register for full Zoho accounts in the future.

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