External examiners are academic subject or professional experts appointed from outside the University. Their key functions are to contribute to the assurance of the standards of awards and to ensure that students are treated fairly in the assessment process. The External Examiners' Handbook contains detailed information on their role and responsibilities.
Role of Course/Subject External Examiner
The University appoints at least one external examiner for each award-bearing course or undergraduate Honours subject. They are involved in the approval and moderation of examination papers and other forms of assessment, and in the moderation of student work and its marking by internal examiners. They are members of boards of examiners which finalise students' results and exception in combined Honours degrees (see below), make progress decisions and, where applicable, make recommendations for awards.
The University also expects course/subject committees to consult the external examiner when proposing changes to the content, structure or regulations for a course or subject strand during its period of approval.
Normally each module is the responsibility of only one external examiner.
Course/Subject external examiners may also assume responsibility for credit-bearing short course modules.
Role of Chief External Examiner
For subject-based Honours degree provision, where different subjects may be combined for Major/Minor, Joint and/or Combined (three Minor) Honours awards, and for the Certificate of Personal and Professional Development and the Postgraduate Certificate of Professional Development frameworks, a two-tier system of external examining and boards of examiners operates. Results of candidates in each subject are considered by a subject board of examiners and are moderated by a subject external examiner. They are then forwarded to a campus progress and award board of examiners. This board includes a chief external examiner who is concerned with ensuring fairness and impartiality in the application of award regulations and procedures.
The Academic Office is responsible for reviewing nominations of external examiners made by Faculty Boards. It maintains the University's External Examiners' Handbook and Code of Practice on External Examining.
Procedure for External Examiner Nomination and Appointment
Course/Subject External Examiner
- The Examinations Office advises faculties of courses or subjects for which replacement external examiners are required.
- In identifying external examiners, faculties should observe the expectations of the University's Code of Practice and relevant PSRB requirements. The Code of Practice was revised in 2011 to reflect the findings of a national review and in 2012 in light of the updated UK Quality Code.
- Course/Subject Directors are responsible for submitting nominations to the Faculty Board, in sufficient time for consideration by the last meeting of the Academic Standards and Quality Enhancement Committee (ASQEC) in the academic year preceding the year of appointment (31 May 2019 for 2019/20 appointments). The form should include relevant information on the proposed external examiner's experience as an examiner. If a proposed external examiner has not acted in this capacity before, it is expected that an experienced external examiner is part of the external examining team.
- To ensure that all issues have been fully addressed, a checklist is available for use by those responsible for the review of nominations.
- The Faculty should satisfy itself as to the appropriateness of the nomination, in accordance with the criteria in the Code.
- The Faculty Board makes the nomination to ASQEC.
- Immediately after Faculty Board, the Faculty Office forwards the form and accompanying documentation to the Academic Office. The nomination is reviewed to ensure that it accords with the Code. Any queries must be resolved before the meeting of ASQEC; otherwise the nomination will be held over to the next meeting.
- Following ASQEC approval, the nomination is endorsed by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) on behalf of Council and is forwarded to the Examinations Office for issuing of a letter of appointment together with the External Examiners' Handbook. The Assessment Handbook is also provided. The letter is copied to the Dean, Course/Subject Director and, for courses in partner institutions, the Subject Partnership Manager.
- Late nominations, and nominations that do not accord with the Code of Practice, are forwarded to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) for consideration on behalf of Academic Standards and Quality Enhancement Committee and Council.
- Information relating to the nomination is retained for five years in accordance with the University's records retention schedule.
Chief External Examiner
- A chief external examiner for Combined Honours degrees is appointed to each of the three campuses where distinct undergraduate honours subjects may be combined to constitute an honours degree award. The nomination is made by the Campus Coordinating Group to the Academic Standards and Quality Enhancement Committee. The nomination form is completed by the campus Director of Combined Studies.
- Following approval by ASQEC, the nomination is endorsed on behalf of Council by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), and the form is sent to the Examinations Office which issues a letter of appointment. This is copied to the Director of Combined Studies.
- The Chief External Examiners for the Certificate of Personal and Professional Development and the Postgraduate Certificate of Professional Development are nominated by the directors of these programmes in Access, Digital and Distributed Learning and are reviewed by the Accredited Professional Development Management Board in ADDL before submission to ASQEC.
Procedures to be Followed for the Non-Attendance of an External Examiner at a meeting of the Board of Examiners
External examiners are required to attend meetings of Boards of Examiners of which they are members where results that contribute to final awards are being considered. Should an external examiner be unable to attend a meeting of the Board, the Course/Subject Director submits a completed pro forma containing proposals for moderating students' work and for approving results to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) for consideration and approval.
Termination of Appointment
The University may terminate an appointment early, if an external examiner fails to fulfill his or her duties, for example through non-attendance at Boards of Examiners where required, non-submission of annual report (see below), or provision of false information.
If a potential conflict of interest should arise following appointment, the external examiner should contact the Examinations Office. The particular circumstances will be discussed within the University and an appropriate decision taken.
An external examiner who wishes to resign should do so by writing to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), giving reasonable notice whenever possible, normally at least three months from the end of the current academic session.
External Examiner's Report
External examiners provide an annual report to the University. This considers standards in relation to assessment, student performance, comparability with other programmes at the same level elsewhere, and other comments as appropriate.
Reports are received by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) and distributed by the Examinations Office to Faculties and partner institutions for response and action as appropriate. They are formally considered as part of the annual monitoring process - Programme Management system (internal courses) or annual course review (external) - and an annual overview report on general issues is made to ASQEC.
A written response to the report is sent to the external examiner within three months of receipt.
The report and the response to it are discussed with student representatives on the course/subject or staff/student consultative committee, or through an alternative means of consultation in part-time courses. A summary report may be provided where there are several externals. From 2011/12 the full report and response are made available to all students of the course, using the Course Support Area in BlackboardLearn.
Contact information (address, telephone, email details) and the external examiner's signature should be redacted. External examiners are asked not to identify individual staff or students by name in their report. If names appear these should also be redacted.
No fee is paid until the report is received.
The following procedures are followed if the report is inadequate in its coverage or not submitted in time:
This requires professional judgement by the Faculty which should request a fuller report by a given date.
Failure to submit in time
Reports should be submitted within one month of the Board of Examiners. For reports expected in June/July:
- Informal enquiries are made through the Faculty during July and August.
- The Examinations Office sends a formal reminder to the external examiner at the beginning of September with a copy to the Course/Subject Director and Dean.
- At the end of September the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) writes to the external examiner (with a copy to the Dean and Course/Subject Director) indicating that if the report is not received within two weeks the appointment will be terminated.
Course/Subject External Examiner
Chief External Examiner