Section M: External examiners

External Examiners are appointed to ensure that all students are treated fairly and equitably, that appropriate standards of assessment are maintained, and that assessments are conducted in accordance with approved regulations.

 

M1. The appointment of external examiners

All External Examiner appointments must be approved by the University Teaching and Learning Committee

The School Board must normally submit External Examiner nominations for approval at least six months before the date of the first assessments with which the proposed appointee is to be associated.

New External Examiners should take up their appointments on or before the retirement of their predecessors. They should remain available after the last assessments with which they are to be associated in order to deal with any subsequent reviews of decisions.

Normally, appointments will run from the September before the first assessments to the September after the last assessments. The usual term of office will allow the External Examiner to assess four successive cohorts of students. This will normally mean four calendar years but may be longer where, for example, in the case of a new course, the first output will not occur in the first year of appointment.

External Examiners should not normally hold more than the equivalent of two substantial undergraduate appointments at the same time.

In approving the appointment of External Examiners, the University will be seeking to ensure that they will be competent and impartial.

New External Examiners must be briefed on their task as soon as possible after appointment and must attend the University’s External Examiner Induction Day and a School based induction. Inductions will include the dates of meetings, their role in relation to the examining team as a whole, the learning outcomes of the course, the module specifications including the methods of assessment and marking scheme, the regulations for the course, and the University’s assessment regulations and Regulations for Awards.

 

M2. Criteria for appointment of external examiners

The following criteria and notes for guidance, reflecting the QAA’s UK National Criteria for appointment of External Examiners, were approved by the University Teaching and Learning Committee on 3 July 2012.

  • An External Examiner should be qualified to PhD level.
  • External examiners should be fluent in English.
  • An External Examiner should, where appropriate, be able and willing to receive samples of work electronically rather than as paper-based material.
  • An External Examiner should have appropriate and current standing, expertise and experience to maintain comparability of standards across the Higher Education sector.

Standing, expertise and breadth of experience may be indicated by:

  • The present post and place of work.
  • Exceptionally, an External Examiner may have retired from full or part-time employment, but must demonstrate continuing relevant involvement in Higher Education or the professions.
  • The range and scope of experience across Higher Education/the professions.
  • Current recent active involvement in research/scholarly/professional activities in the field of study concerned
  • Awareness of current developments in the design and delivery of relevant curricula.
  • Competence and experience relating to designing and operating a variety of assessment tasks appropriate to the subject and operating assessment procedures.
  • Competence and experience relating to the enhancement of the student learning experience.
  • Knowledge and understanding of the UK sector agreed reference points for the maintenance of academic standards and the assurance and enhancement of quality.

In circumstances where a proposed external examiner is drawn from outside of an Higher Education environment (e.g. from business, industry, the professions), and does not possess formal qualifications and/or experience of assessment or quality assurance practices, the University Teaching and Learning Committee may consider these proposals as exceptions to the criteria.

An External Examiner should have enough recent external examining or comparable related experience, at an appropriate level, to indicate competence in assessing students in the Subject Area.

If the proposed External Examiner has no previous external examining experience at the appropriate level, the application should be supported by either:

  • other external examining experience;
  • extensive internal examining experience;
  • other relevant and recent (i.e. normally within the previous three years) experience likely to support the external examiner role.

Proposed External Examiners without experience as Externals must join an experienced team of External Examiners and must not be the sole External Examiner.

External Examiners should not be over-extended by their external examining duties. The External Examiner should normally hold no more than two External Examiner appointments for taught courses/modules at any point in time.

There should be an appropriate balance and expertise in the team of External Examiners and the proposed External Examiner should complement the external examining team in terms of expertise and examining experience.

The range of academic perspectives necessary to the course should be represented in the external examining team.

If the course is associated with or may lead to a professional award, at least one practitioner with appropriate experience should be in the team (where a PSRB has express requirements in relation to the appointment of external examiners, the course team must ensure that these are mat).

The external examining experience in the team as a whole must be sufficient and wide-ranging.

 

M3. Conflicts of interest

External Examiners should be drawn from a wide variety of institutional/professional contexts and traditions in order that the module/course benefits from wide-ranging external scrutiny. The following arrangements are not permissible:

  • More than one External Examiner from the same institution in the team of External Examiners.
  • Reciprocal external examining of modules/courses between the University of Huddersfield and any external institution.
  • Replacement of an External Examiner by an individual from the same institution.
  • An External Examiner from an institution which has been the source of examiners for similar subject areas in the preceding five years.
  • Where there is a single External Examiner for a course, that Examiner must be from an academic, rather than practice-based context.
  • No School should, at any given time, have more than six External Examiners employed by the same Institution.

External Examiners must be impartial in judgement and must not have previous close involvement with the institution which might compromise objectivity. Over the previous five years, the proposed External Examiner should not have been:

  • A member of staff, governor or student of the University of Huddersfield or one of its collaborative partners or be a near relative of a member of staff of the University in relation to the course.
  • An examiner in a cognate course in the institution.
  • Involved as an External Examiner for the course when it was approved by another validating body.

The following are recognised conflicts of interest which will normally disqualify and an External Examiner as the proposed External Examiner should not be:

  • Personally associated with the sponsorship of students.
  • Required to assess colleagues who are recruited as students to the course.
  • In a position, or knows they will be in a position, to significantly influence the future employment of students on the course.
  • Significantly involved in recent or current substantive collaborative research activities with a member of staff closely involved in the delivery, management or assessment of the of the course(s) or modules in question.
  • Anyone with a close professional, contractual or personal relationship with a member of staff or student involved with the course.
  • Likely to be involved with student placements or training in the examiner’s organisation.

 

M4. External examiner terms of office

External Examiners will be appointed for an initial term of office of up to four years. Under certain exceptional circumstances, the University Teaching and Learning Committee may sanction a once-only extension of an External Examiner’s term of office by one year, up to a maximum term of office of five years. Multiple extensions of an External Examiner’s term of office are not permitted.

The exceptional circumstances in which the University Teaching and Learning Committee may sanction a once-only extension of an External Examiner’s term of office by one year will include the following:

  • In the event of an unplanned vacancy arising from the loss of an External Examiner who had not reached the end of their term of office.
  • If the subject is highly specialised, with a known shortage of expertise.
  • If there is a specific and pressing operational or academic need. This circumstance should be described in detail on the application form.
  • If the course had only run sporadically during the retiring External Examiner’s term of office.

 

M5. Termination of an external examiner’s contract

An External Examiner’s contract may only be terminated prematurely in exceptional circumstances, through the following procedure:

Any decision to terminate an appointment prematurely must be referred by the Dean of School to the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Teaching and Learning) in writing giving reasons for the request. The grounds for premature termination will be limited to the following areas:

  • Failure to submit an annual report.
  • Failure to participate in Course Assessment Boards.
  • Serious transgression of the University’s regulations and policies.
  • If a conflict of interest arises which cannot be satisfactorily resolved.

If the request is approved, Registry will inform the External Examiner.

 

M6. The rights and responsibilities of external examiners in relation to modules

The role of the External Examiner(s) is to advise on the standards and fairness of assessment and, when appropriate, to consider the results of individual students in the context of the University’s Regulations for Awards.

In order to carry out these responsibilities, the External Examiner(s) will:

  • Attend the University External Examiner’s Induction briefing prior to or following appointment. Where this is not possible, a signed acknowledgement for receipt of the induction pack must be supplied.
  • Offer advice impartially without being influenced by previous association with the staff or any of the students.
  • Compare and comment on the standard of assessments with that of similar modules in higher education elsewhere.
  • Comment on the set of assessment activities for any particular module, in the light of the need to ensure that all students are assessed fairly in relation to the module specifications;
  • Scrutinise all examination papers and substantive assessment briefs before they are released to students.
  • Have the right to inspect all forms of assessed work in line with the Regulations for Awards.
  • See the work of all students proposed for failure, and samples of the work of students proposed to each other grade, in order to ensure that each student is placed fairly in relation to the rest of the cohort. In cases where 5 or fewer students are proposed for the highest grade, the work for all of the students in that grade must be included in the sample sent.
  • Have the right to make recommendations with regard to the moderation of marks/grades awarded by internal examiners.
  • Comment on the way assessments are conducted, and share in developmental discussions with module teams where appropriate.
  • In line with the Regulations for Awards, approve assessment briefs in advance of the academic year.
  • Complete the external examiner’s report in full within 4 weeks of the main course assessment board.
  • Maintain confidentiality of all course materials and student results.
  • Report to the Chair of the University Teaching and Learning Committee on any matters of serious concern arising from the assessments, which put at risk academic standards.

To carry out these responsibilities the External Examiner(s) will be:

  • Expert in the field of study concerned.
  • Competent in assessing students’ knowledge and skills at higher education level.
  • Impartial in judgement.
  • Fully briefed on their role, in line with the University’s procedures having attended the University’s External Examiner Induction Programme.

 

M7. The rights and responsibilities of external examiners in relation to courses

The role of the External Examiner(s) is to advise the Course Assessment Board with regard to standards and fairness of assessment and, when appropriate, to consider the results of individual students in the context of the University’s Regulations for Awards.

In order to carry out these responsibilities, the External Examiner(s) will:

  • Attend the University External Examiner’s Induction briefing prior to or following appointment.
  • Offer advice impartially without being influenced by previous association with the course, the staff, or any of the students.
  • Compare in overall terms the performance of students with that of their peers on similar courses of higher education elsewhere.
  • Scrutinise all examination papers and substantive assessment briefs before they are released to students.
  • Be consulted and will respond about any proposed changes to the approved Course assessment regulations which will directly affect students currently on the Course(s).
  • Offer advice on progression and awards based on the agreed module grades and in the light of discussion at the Course Assessment Board.
  • Attend the meetings of the Course Assessment Board at which decisions on recommendations for award are made and ensure that those recommendations have been reached in line with the University’s regulations and normal practice in higher education.
  • Participate as required in any reviews of decisions about individual students’ results during the examiner’s period of office.
  • Complete the external examiner’s report in full within 4 weeks of the main course assessment board.
  • Maintain confidentiality of all course materials and student results.
  • Report to the chair of the University Teaching and Learning Committee on any matters of serious concern arising from the assessments, which put at risk the standard of the award.
  • Make reference to benchmark standards (subject benchmark statements or professional benchmark statements) in their evaluation of student work.

To carry out these responsibilities the External Examiner(s) will be:

  • Expert in one of the fields of study associated with the course.
  • Competent in assessing students’ knowledge and skills at higher education level.
  • Impartial in judgement.
  • Briefed on their role, in line with the University’s procedures; having attended the University’s External Examiner Induction Programme.
  • An External Examiner for a group of modules involved in the Course.

All recommendations for the conferment of awards must be signed by the Chair of the Course Assessment Board and all External Examiner(s) present at the meeting.

 

M8. Courses which lie outside the CATS framework

The Senate may exceptionally give approval for the design of courses of study leading to awards of the University which lie outside the CATS framework. In such cases an External Examiner(s) will be appointed and the functions of the Course Assessment Board will be discharged by a Board of Examiners for the course.

 

M9. External examiner reports

External Examiners are required to submit their reports within four weeks of the main Course Assessment Board. The reports will cover the conduct of the assessments and on issues related to assessment, including:

  • The overall performance of the students in relation to their peers on similar courses/modules.
  • The quality of knowledge and skills (both general and subject specific) demonstrated by the students.
  • The overall standard of assessments.
  • The overall approach to teaching, learning and assessment as indicated by student performance.
  • Any other recommendations arising from the assessment.

Reports will be submitted on the External Examiners’ Report Template, which is available from the External Examiner section of Registry’s website. Reports should be returned to Registry, preferably in electronic format, within four weeks of the main Course Assessment Board. Registry will forward copies of the report to the Dean and appropriate school staff for dissemination within the School.

The purpose of the report is to enable the University to judge whether the course is meeting its stated learning outcomes and to make any necessary improvements, whether immediately or at the next review as appropriate.

External Examiners have authority to report direct to the chair of the Senate if they are concerned about standards of assessment and performance, particularly where they consider that assessments are being conducted in a way that jeopardises either the fair treatment of students or the standard of awards.

In the event that an External Examiner’s concern is related to a systemic (i.e. not a one-off case of ineffective practice); the external examiner can raise the matter externally with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA).

 

M10. Form EE3 – Feedback and response to external examiner reports

Course teams will provide external examiners with the completed EE3 Response and Action Plan normally within one month of receipt of the external examiner report and in time for the annual evaluation process.

The Action Plan will include:

  • Actions in response to issues identified for consideration or areas for improvement.
  • A reply to any issue which the External Examiner has requested a response to in their report.
  • Examples of good practice together with proposals for the dissemination of these within the institution.

External Examiners are expected to comment on and approve the EE3 Action Plan by emailing a signed EE3 form to Registry. External Examiners will then be asked to confirm at the next scheduled cab that the EE3 Action Plan has been satisfactorily completed.

The External Examiners’ Report and Action Plan will be considered by:

  • the Course Committee;
  • the Annual Evaluation process;
  • future Subject Review events.

The EE3 Action Plan should be completed in full and approved by the Course Committee within six months of receipt of the External Examiner’s report or following consideration at annual evaluation. The statement of action outcomes should inform the completion of the subsequent year’s annual evaluation report.