This paper considers the rationale for, and nature of, continuing professional education (CPE) within accountancy. Knowledge obsolescence, continuing legitimation of the licence to practice and professionalism have influenced the growth of CPE, as have economic, social, legal and political concerns in the U.K. Common features of CPE as currently operated are the degree of latitude in what can be classified as CPE, issues of relevance and competence and differential requirements for accountants working in different areas. An examination of an alternative approach to CPE concentrates on the relationship between theory and practice and the notion of the reflective practitioner. The paper concludes that, while recent trends have forced the profession to reassess CPE, present requirements suggest an ambivalent attitude. The profession needs to consider why CPE is required, how it is to be implemented and the underlying implications of the approach adopted.