Quality Assurance Handbook by HC121014072012


									Quality Handbook
External Examiners for Taught Programmes:
Role, Policy and Procedures
Set out below is the University’s policy relating to the external examination of taught programmes
of study. The policy is informed by the Quality Assurance Agency’s ‘Code of practice for the
assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education - Section 4: External Examining -
August 2004’. This is intended to:
     assist External Examiners to undertake their role, and
     provide information and guidance for those staff administering the External Examiner system.

General principles (extracted with minor changes
from the QAA Code of Practice)
The external examining function should help the University to ensure that:
     The academic standard of each award and its component parts is set and maintained by the
      University at the appropriate level, and that the standards of student performance are properly
      judged against this;
     The assessment process measures student achievement appropriately against the intended
      outcomes of the programme, and is rigorous, fairly operated and in line with the institution's
      policies and regulations;
     The University is able to compare the standards of its awards with those of other higher
      education institutions.
   I. The QAA lays down a core set of functions (Precept 1) that is required of all external
        examiners, whereby the University requires all its external examiners, in their expert
        judgement, to report on:
   II. whether the academic standards set for its awards, or part thereof, are appropriate;
   III. the extent to which its assessment processes are rigorous, ensure equity of treatment for
        students and have been fairly conducted within University regulations and guidance;
   IV. the standards of student performance in those programmes or parts of programmes which
        they have been appointed to examine;
   V. where appropriate, the comparability of the standards and student achievements with those
        in some other higher education institutions;
   VI. good practice they have identified.

Role of the External Examiner
The University of Southampton regards the role of the External Examiner as follows:

   I.   To participate in assessment processes for the award of degrees and other qualifications;
   II.  In exceptional circumstances to arbitrate or adjudicate in the allocation/aggregation of
        marks in determining awards;
   III. To comment and advise on assessment processes and, where appropriate, on programme
        content, balance and structure.

External Examiners are responsible, through the appropriate School Board, to Senate.

External Examiners are required to discharge to the University’s satisfaction their responsibilities
and duties (as laid out in this section, supplemented by the letter of appointment). Failure to do so
will trigger action by the school and Senate and may result in termination of appointment (please
refer to External Examiners for Taught Programmes – Appointment Procedures).

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Quality Handbook                                                         Role , Policy and Procedures
Selection and Appointment
External Examiners are appointed in line with the selection criteria and procedures outlined in
External Examiners for Taught Programme – Appointment Procedures.

Induction and Support
Once approval has been given by the faculty, the school should appoint the nominee, stating clearly
the role, duties and responsibilities of an External Examiner for the University of Southampton,
including submission of an annual report. The standard letter of appointment can be adapted by the
School as appropriate.

In certain cases approval may be given for the nomination of an external examiner who does not
possess previous examining experience and approval may be given on the condition that the school
provides him/her ‘with a suitable induction and support’.

The induction should cover items such as:

    A formal meeting between the External and representatives of the school to set the context,
     philosophy and assessment criteria/procedures of the programme(s) within the full range of
     complementary programmes offered within the school: and to provide;
    An introduction to the school’s/University’s policies, procedures and regulations concerning
     the structure and administration of their examining and awarding boards;
    Content and structure of the programme and modules;
    Examining arrangements for the school (including contractual arrangements such as rates of
     payment, expenses, tenure and dates of examiners’ meetings);
    Introduction to staff and, if feasible, students;
    The school’s/University’s policies on equal opportunities;
    The individual examiner’s role in relation to the examining team as a whole and the extent of
     their discretion.

Within the induction the school should ensure that newly appointed External Examiners are suitably
prepared to fulfil the requirements of the role. They should be briefed about the dates of
examiners’ meetings, and their role in relation to the programme of study and subject being

The School must ensure that the following documents are supplied annually to all new and
continuing External Examiners:

    Letter of Appointment;
    The Role of the External Examiner;
    The current External Examiner’s most recent report;
    The relevant programme specification;
    The relevant module profiles;
    Level and classification descriptors developed by the University and the school as part of its
     assessment strategy;
    Assessment and Marking criteria and policies;
    Any other Quality Assurance materials that the External may request.
    A timetable / schedule of the examining process within the school
    Details of procedures for claiming expenses and fees

Responsibilities of External Examiners
The External Examiner should approve the form and content of draft examination papers,
coursework and other assignments that count towards the award in order to ensure that all
students will be assessed fairly in relation to the objectives, syllabus and regulations for the
programme and will reach the required standard.

The External Examiner is entitled to scrutinise all cases of year 1 termination and check all year 1
exam papers, in light of the growing importance of Certificate in HE awards.

In some subjects, it may be essential for model answers to be prepared and scrutinised by the
External Examiner.

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An External Examiner has the right to see all assignments, examination scripts, projects,
dissertations and other work including seminar/ presentation work that counts for more than 10%
of a module’s assessment requirement. Where coursework (e.g. a dissertation) is sent to the
External Examiner for moderation, it is expected that the work will be dealt with and returned within
one month.

The inviting school will normally agree at an early stage with the External Examiner the basis on
which the selection of the students’ work will be made and provided to him or her. The guiding
principle should be that External Examiners should have enough evidence to determine that internal
marking and classifications are of an appropriate standard and are consistent. The sample should
include work awarded the highest marks, failures, and work in each class of the award and may
include some of the work of borderline candidates.

An External Examiner has the right to moderate marks awarded by the internal examiners. External
Examiners must not be directly involved in marking.

External Examiners should be consulted about any proposed changes to the assessment regulations
that will directly affect students currently on the programme.

An External Examiner is a full member of the Board of Examiners and has a right to attend all
examiners’ meetings. External Examiners are required to be present at all final examiners’ meetings
at which decisions on recommendations for awards are made in the subject/s in which they are
involved. If an External Examiner exceptionally cannot attend a meeting where his or her presence
is formally required, he or she should be available for consultation by telephone or in some other
effective way.

External Examiners should compare the performance of students with that of students on
comparable programmes elsewhere.

   I.   At the meeting of the Board of Examiners, the role of the External Examiner is:
   II.  To ensure that recommendations accord with the requirements and normal practice of the
        regulations for that programme of study and the University;
   III. To ensure that decisions made on individual students are fair and consistent;
   IV. To adjudicate in any case of disagreement on the mark to be awarded for a particular
        element of assessment, or on the final classification to be derived from an array of marks of
        a particular candidate. While there should be consultations between internal and External
        Examiners in such cases, the views of an External Examiner should be particularly influential;
   V. To sign the final list of results as confirmation of acceptance of the recommendations for

External Examiners are encouraged to discuss and comment on the assessment process and the
schemes used for marking and classification. In some subjects, they may be asked to participate in
devising such schemes. External Examiners may often be able to give valuable advice to internal
examiners, especially the inexperienced, either directly or through the Head of School.

In the cases of instructional courses for Master’s degrees the appointment may either include
examination of the dissertations submitted during the Session (in which case there is a basic fee
and a fee for each dissertation) or include examination of the dissertations to be submitted by all
candidates taking the Qualifying Examination held during the Session (in which case there is a
single composite fee). In the latter case, the fee may be paid before all dissertations have been
submitted; it is understood that the examiner will nevertheless undertake their scrutiny.

External Examiners’ Report
External Examiners are required to make annual written reports, with any reference to individual
student matters made separately. They should be informed of this requirement in the formal letter
of appointment. Payment of fees will be conditional upon the receipt of these reports that should be
submitted within eight weeks of the final Board of Examiners meeting for the academic year in

Each External Examiner should submit his/her report (see below for content) to the relevant Head of
School. The Head of School is responsible for forwarding the reports to the Dean of Faculty. All
External Examiner reports must be with the Head of School no later than eight weeks after the final
Board of Examiners meeting for the academic year of the report.

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External Examiners’ reports are an important element in monitoring the standards and quality of
provision. The reports and any comments or suggestions made by the External Examiner should be
discussed within the school under unrestricted business (provided no reference to individuals is
made in the report). An explicit decision should be made about whether or not to introduce changes
as a result of the External Examiners’ input. The outcomes of this process must be formally
reported back to the External Examiner.

External examiner’s reports and the School’s response to these reports form part of the LTERAP
evidence base.

External Examiners’ Reports should also be considered as part of quinquennial module and
programme reviews.

Content of External Examiners’ Report
As outlined above, External Examiners are required to submit annual written reports on the
programme/s they are responsible for, and a final report at the end of the term of office.

 Please note that external examiners' reports cannot be considered confidential. Following
 the recommendation of HEFCE publication 06/45, this report will be shared with student
 representatives, and it may also be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act.

The University issues a standard External Examiner Reporting form. Schools should issue this form
to every External Examiner prior to the Board of Examiners meetings for the academic year of the
report. This report can be submitted electronically; however a hard copy with signature must follow
as authentication.

External Examiners are asked to write one report for the cluster of programmes at the same level
for which they examine, however separate reports for undergraduate and postgraduate level
programmes are still required.

External Examiners are invited to comment additionally on any concerns they have about the
general level of marking of a programme or other matters not covered by these questions.

External Examiners should send reports to the Head of School. The school is then responsible for
forwarding a copy of the report to the appropriate Dean.

As outlined above, schools should give full consideration to External Examiners’ reports and
consider whether to take action in response to recommendations or comments. Schools should
provide to External Examiners a written response to the report, including any action taken in

The final report, to be submitted at the end of the External Examiner’s term of office, should
contain retrospective comments on his or her experience as an External Examiner at the University
and should draw attention, for example, to significant changes in standards or procedures observed
during the period.

An External Examiner has the authority to make a separate report directly and confidentially to the
Vice-Chancellor or the Head of School on any matter of serious concern arising from the
assessments, which may put at risk the standard of the University’s awards.

The fee to be paid to an External Examiner is set out in the letter of appointment from the school.
Please refer to the UCU pro-rata daily rate for fee level guidance. The Inland Revenue has
determined that from 6 April 1993, fee payments to External Examiners living in the UK will be
subject to tax at the basic rate except for examiners of Higher Degrees and Doctorates.

An External Examiner who has no regular income from teaching, coaching or other sources and who
certifies on Certificate P524 that his or her total earning including the fees from the appointment
specified in the certificate and other income from all sources in the relevant year will not exceed the
lower personal allowance for that year, may be paid without deduction of tax.

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Quality Handbook                                                         Role , Policy and Procedures
For each payment of fees, a payslip is produced and sent to the payee. If any tax has been deducted
(i.e. for external examiner duties not relating to Higher Degrees and Doctorates), a P60 (Employer’s
certificate of pay and tax deducted) will be issued at the end of the financial year.

Schools are asked to consider the following when reviewing the fee structures. With the exception
of dissertations, faculties and schools should move away from payment schemes which pay by
script, in recognition that External Examiners moderate standards and do not act as third markers.
Remuneration by a daily rate would require all schools to understand ‘moderation’ as a principle
and therefore send an appropriate sample. Payment is to be made for all stages of external
examining, including moderation of paper and scripts, attending examiners meetings and writing

Travelling costs within the UK by rail are normally reimbursed at standard class period return rates,
unless day returns or ‘savers’ are available. First class rail travel may only be claimed by prior
agreement with the Head of School. Payment for air travel may be approved, provided the total cost
does not exceed that of rail travel plus subsistence costs. The dates of travel, departure point and
route of journey must be shown.

Details of these costs and subsistence and other expenses should be shown on the claim form
provided: subsistence expenses will be reimbursed provided details are shown and receipts
submitted. The reimbursement of travelling and subsistence expenses actually incurred will not be
subject to tax or national insurance.

Revision History
1.    Approved by ASQC 4 November 1998
2.    Revised by ASQC, 8 March 2000
3.    Revised by ASQC, 14 November 2001
4.    Revised by ASQC, July 2003
5.    Revised by ASQC, February 2004
6.    Minor revisions July 2007 to chair of ASQC
7.    New Brand added – July 2008

Academic standard

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Quality Handbook                                                         Role , Policy and Procedures

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