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Thank you for agreeing to become an external examiner at Brookes. I hope you will enjoy working with colleagues at the University and - for some of you - at the partner organisations who deliver programmes of study leading to Oxford Brookes awards.
Our external examiners (around 300 are currently employed on taught programmes across the University) play a key role in helping the University maintain the academic and professional standards of its award, and in providing advice to programme teams on how to improve the quality of the student learning experience. Faculty staff, collaborative partners and University managers value the suggestions for enhancement that are made by external examiners, and I hope that you will develop mutually beneficial working relationships during your time as an examiner at Brookes.
You may be familiar with the role of the external examiner from your experience in your own institution, but institutions differ in their approaches to programme delivery and assessment, and this handbook is intended to be an accessible online reference guide to help external examiners understand the policies and systems at Oxford Brookes, and to help you to fulfil your role effectively.
Head of Academic Policy & Quality Office
Updated August 2018
Oxford Brookes University is one of the top-performing modern universities – it is ranked No.1 for both teaching and research in the Times Higher Education Young University Rankings 2018, and is the UK’s only university in the QS Top 50 Under 50 Ranking for 2019.
Brookes has around 18,000 students studying on a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, many of which carry professional accreditation. Many other students are registered on programmes of study leading to Brookes awards through collaborations with partners in the UK and around the world.
The University is based on several campuses in and around Oxford. The largest campus is in Headington, just outside the city centre. Other campuses are at Wheatley, Marston Road, Harcourt Hill, and in Swindon. See the campuses and facilities pages on the University website for details of the location of the different sites, at: https://www.brookes.ac.uk/about-brookes/contacts-maps-and-campuses/
Mission and strategy
“Oxford Brookes University is committed to leading the intellectual, social and economic development of the communities it serves through teaching, research and creativity that achieve the highest standards.”
The key priority areas for Oxford Brookes University’s 2020 Strategy are:
Read more about the 2020 strategy, and our guiding principles, at https://www.brookes.ac.uk/about-brookes/strategy/strategy-2020/
The key strategy relating to the achievement of the first of these key objectives is the Strategy for Enhancing the Student Experience, or SESE, which is supported by a programme of enhancement projects. Links to web pages with further information about the SESE and PESE are given in the ‘Useful Links’ section (9) below.
The University has a broad portfolio of academic and professional programmes, delivered by Departments and Schools organised within four Faculties, as follows:
Oxford Brookes Business School
Faculty of Health & Life Sciences
Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences
Faculty of Technology, Design & Environment
You can find out more about each subject area and the programmes they deliver by visiting the Faculty and Department web pages via the following link: https://www.brookes.ac.uk/about-brookes/structure-and-governance/
The academic Faculties are supported by a range of professional support services, organised into Directorates, as follows:
An A-Z list of all the teams within these Directorates, with links to their web pages, can be accessed here: https://www.brookes.ac.uk/about-brookes/structure-and-governance/professional-services/
The University also works with a range of partner organisations in the UK and overseas to deliver programmes leading to Brookes awards, and you may be appointed to examine on one of these programmes. Brookes’ register of collaborative arrangements can be found at /asa/apqo/programme-specifications/collaborative-provision-register/
Detailed information about the University’s structures for academic governance can be found at https://sites.google.com/brookes.ac.uk/university-committees (you will need your Brookes staff number and password to log in to this page).
Quality & Learning Infrastructure Committee
QLIC is the University’s senior quality committee, with authority for decision-making delegated by the Academic Board. It is responsible for maintaining an overview of the appointment of external examiners and of the issues raised in their reports, including those appointed to the University’s collaborative arrangements. Faculty quality committees are responsible for ensuring that Programme Leads (and Programme Managers at partner organisations, supported by Brookes Liaison Managers) provide timely and satisfactory responses to external examiners’ reports.
Examination committees make recommendations to the Academic Board on progression and awards. Every programme of study leading to a University award will be overseen by an examination committee and the Programme Lead for the awards you examine will be able to provide you with further details of when it meets and how it operates. See also the Useful Links section (9) below for links to the University regulations relating to examination committees.
Undergraduate Modular Programme (UMP) examination committees
For courses within the Undergraduate Modular Programme (UMP) there is a two-tier procedure with Subject Examination Committees (SEC) operating at Faculty level and reporting to a university-wide awarding committee: the Modular Examination Committee (MEC). The SECs, which include subject external examiners, meet at the end of each semester (see Useful Links below) - they are responsible for the assessment of a defined set of modules and programmes and for making recommendations on progression and awards to students within their subject fields. The Modular Examination Committee (MEC) also meets after the end of each semester and receives the recommendations from the SECs. It meets in two sessions: firstly, to consider recommendations for the progression of continuing students and secondly, with the attendance of the two Chief External Examiners, to consider and approve awards for graduating students.
The Regulations provide a framework for teaching and assessment at Oxford Brookes. It is a comprehensive publication covering the academic regulations, policies and procedures governing all the University’s provision, aimed at staff and students, and can be found at /regulations/
Eligibility to work checks
It is a UKVI requirement that we confirm the eligibility to work in the UK of all nominated external examiners (regardless of nationality) before we are able to issue you with a letter of appointment. Checking passports is the usual means by which we establish eligibility, and we usually ask nominees to send or bring in their passports so that we can carry out a face to face check (either virtually or in person). However, other documents may be accepted, and there is further information regarding right to work checks, including a list of acceptable documentation, at: https://www.brookes.ac.uk/services/hr/handbook/recruitment/related_policies_procedures/immigration/index.html
Letter of appointment
Your letter of appointment sets out the terms of your contract with the University, and provides contact information for the Faculty staff with whom you will liaise in carrying out your duties as an external examiner – they should contact you soon after your appointment to provide you with full details about the programme/s you will be examining.
Along with your appointment letter, you will also be sent two other forms which you are asked to complete and return to us as soon as possible:
We ask you to return the acceptance form to indicate your acceptance of the appointment offered, and also to provide the bank details you wish us to use when paying your fees and expenses. We will hold this information only for as long as you are appointed as an external examiner for Brookes, and will ask you to confirm these details from time to time, but please let us know as soon as possible if your payment details change, for example, if you change banks. On receipt of your completed acceptance form, we will send you a Brookes staff number and password, which will enable you to access the Personal Information Portal (PIP), where you can view full information about the programme you examine. You can log into PIP at https://kmis.brookes.ac.uk/csms/wprin_menu.main
We require a completed ACF in order to grant you access to the programme and module information held on the University’s Virtual Learning Environment (Moodle) – you are asked to sign this agreement because access to the VLE also gives you access to student information, which is carefully controlled under the provisions of the Data Protection Act.
Period of office
External examiners are appointed for a maximum period of four years, although this may in practice be slightly longer to allow for the production of annual reports to cover four successive cohorts of students (taking into account the dates of examination committee meetings).
An extension, of a maximum of one year, to an examiner’s period of office will only be granted in exceptional circumstances, for example, if a programme is due to terminate within the next year or so, and the existing examiner has agreed to see out the final cohort of students, for continuity.
Resignation/termination of appointment
If you should wish to resign your post, for any reason, before the end of your term of office, we would be very grateful if you would notify the External Examiners Administrator in writing (by email to email@example.com ) as soon as possible, so we can ask the programme team to secure a new examiner prior to the next assessment period. Other than in exceptional circumstances, we would ask you to give notice before the start of the semester in which your annual report for that year is due.
Because of the importance of the external examiner system in enabling the University to assure the academic standards of its awards, Oxford Brookes reserves the right to terminate your contract if you are unable to fulfil the minimum duties of your role (as set out in section 5 below).
We collect a certain amount of personal information in order to process nominations and fees/expenses payments. The University processes all personal data in accordance with the Data Protection Act, and will not use this information for any other than the stated purposes. You can find the University’s privacy notice for affiliate staff, at https://www.brookes.ac.uk/services/hr/personaldata/Affiliate_GDPR_Privacy_Notice_revised_June2018.pdf
You will be paid a fee on receipt of your annual report, and reasonable expenses incurred in the course of carrying out your duties as an external examiner for Brookes will be reimbursed.
The Academic Policy & Quality Office will arrange for payment of your fees on receipt of your annual report (for details about submission of reports, see section 8) - you do not need to make a separate claim for your fee. Fees are processed in the pay run for the month following submission of the report, and the funds deposited in bank accounts on the last day of the month. The APQO will make arrangements to pay your fee using the bank account details you provided at the time you accepted your appointment as external examiner (or at the time of the most recent update request). Please notify us as soon as possible if these details change.
Calculation of fees
Fees are currently calculated on the basis of the size (in terms of student numbers) of the programme examined, using a multiplier of £10 per full-time equivalent, rounded up to a minimum of £250, or down to a maximum of £800, as appropriate. An additional flat fee of £50 is added to this payment to cover attendance at the relevant examination committee meeting/s
Tax will not automatically be deducted from fee payments, unless specifically requested, and it is therefore the individual’s responsibility to meet their tax liabilities. If you would like income tax to be deducted before payment of your fee, please inform the APQO on acceptance of your appointment so that we can ensure this is set up correctly on our Payroll system.
The University will not pay VAT in excess of the total annual fee. If fees are to be paid to a company or organisation you should inform the APQO on acceptance of your appointment so that the relevant details are available to our Finance service when the account is initiated.
The University will reimburse expenses incurred in the course of carrying out your duties as external examiner for Brookes, in accordance with the rates specified in the allowances section below. Expenses payments are governed by the University’s Financial Regulations (Expenses Policy), which can be found at https://intranet.brookes.ac.uk/fls-intranet/finance/policies-and-procedures/expenses-policy/
Expenses claims will only be reimbursed on production of receipts giving details of the expenses incurred. With the exception of car mileage claims, specific receipts for all goods or services being claimed for must be supplied. All expenses claims are subject to the University's normal audit procedures, in accordance with its Financial Regulations.
All claims must be submitted via the University’s Online Expenses Management System. Once appointed, you will be sent an invitation to join the systems, through an email from Access Workspace. You will be registered for the service using the email address you supplied us with for correspondence purposes.
If you have any queries about using the expenses system, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Where possible, external examiners are asked to use public transport, in line with the University’s commitment to sustainable travel – see https://www.brookes.ac.uk/sustainability/transport/ For directions to our campuses, please see https://www.brookes.ac.uk/about-brookes/contacts-maps-and-campuses/ We are unable to provide a travel booking service for external examiners, but, if you book bus/rail tickets well in advance of visiting the University, in order to benefit from cost savings/special offers, we are able to reimburse you before you make the journey if you send us the receipts.
1.1 Rail fares will be reimbursed, at standard class rate, on production of proof of purchase. First class or ‘open’ fares will not normally be reimbursed by the University.
1.2 Bus/coach fares will be reimbursed on production of proof of purchase. Oxford is well served with buses, including the Brookes Bus and the Park & Ride services, and London/airport coaches run from directly outside the Headington campuses.
1.3 Car mileage will be reimbursed at the rate of 40p per mile (up to 10,000 miles per tax year). Motorcycle mileage is reimbursed at the rate of 24p per mile. Car parking fees paid during the course of external examiner duties will be reimbursed subject to the production of proof of expenditure. For details of Park & Ride facilities in the Oxford area see: http://parkandride.oxfordbus.co.uk/ Unless agreed in advance, the University will not reimburse external examiners for the cost of a hire vehicle.
1.4 Taxis may be used where public transport is not available, or there are specific circumstances requiring taxi travel - receipts should be obtained for all journeys.
1.5 Flights - domestic air journeys should only be made where it can be shown that this mode of travel will result in either direct or indirect cost savings (e.g. hotel charges), where there is no other practicable method of travel, or where other special circumstances apply (e.g. industrial action affecting other forms of transport). The expenses system cannot currently process claims for air travel, as flights must be booked via Key Travel, our travel management company. If you need to arrange a flight in order to travel to Oxford Brookes, please contact Simon Waine (01865 483390, or email email@example.com ) to discuss your requirements.
International air travel costs will not normally be reimbursed, except where external examiners are being asked to fly out to visit partner organisations overseas. Travel arrangements for these trips will be organised by the Department/School which manages the collaborative partnership.
2.1 The cost of overnight hotel accommodation and breakfast at a reasonable quality hotel (up to the equivalent of a 3-star UK standard) will be reimbursed on production of receipts, normally up to a maximum of £100 per night. Your Programme Lead or Programme Administrator may be able to advise on suitable local accommodation but, regrettably, we do not have the capacity to provide a booking service for external examiners. Please note that the University is unable to reimburse any telephone, newspaper or gratuity costs incurred during overnight stays.
3.1 Expenditure on meals will be reimbursed on production of VAT receipts. Please note that the University is unable to reimburse external examiners for the cost of alcoholic drinks.
3.2 Where an external examiner wishes to claim for a meal but is unable to provide a receipt, reimbursement is subject to the following limits:.
4.1 Where an external examiner has incurred postage charges, e.g. for returning scripts, these will be reimbursed on production of receipts.
5 Requests to exceed maximum rates
5.1 The University recognises that there may be exceptional circumstances when the maximum rates may have to be exceeded. This must be authorised by the Head of the Academic Policy & Quality Office in advance of the expenses being incurred, if possible. In order for reimbursement to be considered, externals are asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org explaining the reasons for the additional expenditure.
The University’s external examining policy - which is based on the expectations of the 2013 UK Quality Code for Higher Education – outlines the role of the external examiner as being to comment and advise on:
The minimum duties associated with your role are therefore:
Other duties, as appropriate to provision being examined, may include:
In respect of your moderation duties, any significant differences between first and second markers should have been resolved through the internal moderation process before submission to the external examiner. However, in exceptional circumstances, external examiners may also be asked to:
You are not required to meet with students, but many examiners find this very useful - if you wish to do so, please ask the Programme Lead to arrange this for you.
Rights and responsibilities
The University and its partners should ensure that you receive the documentation you require in sufficient time to enable you to carry out your duties, and you should be provided with a schedule at the start of the academic year giving key dates so that you know when to expect to receive draft papers for approval, assessed work, for moderation, etc – please contact your Programme Lead if you do not receive this information.
In carrying out your role, you also have the right to:
Modifications to provision
External examiners also play a valuable role in the continued improvement of Brookes’ provision through the processes for modification of provision, and you may therefore on occasion also be asked to comment and advise on proposed changes to the teaching, learning and assessment strategies for the modules/programme you examine
Your Programme Lead should provide you with an introduction to the programme you are examining, and contextual information about the Department/School, or partner organisation, in which it is being delivered. They should also provide you with information about the management of the programme, and ensure that you have all the information you require to enable you to carry out your duties (see below).
If your appointment at Brookes is your first one as an external examiner, the department will have put in place some arrangements to ensure that you are mentored by a more experienced member of the external examining team for the programme. Please ensure that you ask your Programme Lead for details of who has been assigned as your mentor.
All new examiners are invited to attend a briefing day at Brookes; and current examiners are also welcome to attend. The day includes opportunities for discussion and debate, providing an introduction to the University and its approach to assessment, including key recent changes and innovations, and an opportunity to meet with members of individual programme teams. We will let you know about upcoming briefing days by email, and you can also look out for details and how to book on the APQO web pages at https://www.brookes.ac.uk/asa/apqo/external-examining/
In respect of information about the award you are examining; as a minimum you should be provided, by the programme leader, with the following contextual information to enable you to familiarise yourself with the programme/s (updated each year):
Much of this information can be accessed via the Personal Information Portal (PIP), Moodle, or the University web pages, including the reports of previous external examiners (see section 8 below), and your Programme Lead should ensure that you know how to locate the appropriate information.
Samples of assessed work
At times agreed at the start of the academic year, you should also be provided with the following information about the assessment of the programme:
Please return your comments on draft assessments and samples of student work to the programme team within the agreed timescale. There is a tight timescale in which marking and moderation needs to be completed, so that examination committees can be held, awards confirmed and certificates printed in time for the main graduation ceremonies held in June.
Many samples of assessed work can be provided electronically, through the VLE, but postage for returning any assignments provided in hard copy will be reimbursed through your expenses claims. Some forms of assessment are more difficult than others to sample (e.g. presentations, performances, etc) and, if appropriate, you should discuss how the sampling process should work with the Programme Lead or relevant module leader. You may agree with the Programme Lead that you will receive assessed work at appropriate times throughout the year, other than at the time of the final examination committee – you should also agree on when your formal annual report will be due, and this will be the point at which your fee will be paid.
Your key contacts within the Department or School are likely to be:
Other staff in the Department/Faculty with responsibilities for ensuring your appointment runs smoothly, and with whom you may have contact, include:
Academic Policy & Quality Office
The APQO is responsible for the overall administration of the University’s external examiner system. We process nominations and issue letters of appointment, receive annual reports, and process fees and expenses payments. Your key contacts here are:
You can also contact these members of the APQO through the email@example.com email address. Please notify us as soon as possible if any of your personal details change, for example, changes of contact information or payment details, etc.
The main purpose of external examiners’ reports is to provide evidence of:
External examiners’ annual reports are key documents in assuring the academic standards of the University’s awards, so it is essential that they are comprehensive and cite the evidence upon which their judgements and comments are based. All external examiners are asked to submit their reports on the University’s template, which has been designed to meet national expectations for such reports and is available on the APQO website at https://www.brookes.ac.uk/asa/apqo/external-examining/
Reports for collaborative programmes should, where appropriate, distinguish between issues that relate to the home programme and those that relate to the provision delivered by different partners.
Staff and students’ names should not be used in reports – they will be removed before publication of the report on PIP.
Submission of reports
You are asked to submit your annual report to the APQO (via the firstname.lastname@example.org email account) within one month of the examination committee for the provision you examine. Failure to submit reports in a timely fashion or to provide them to an adequate standard in the required format, will be regarded as grounds upon which to terminate an external examiner’s contract. The APQO will send out reminders when reports become due (or overdue), but the University reserves the right to withhold payment of fees if the report is so late as to be of no use (see Use of reports below).
Annual reports should be submitted – in Word format - by email on the electronic template to a dedicated external examiners’ email address managed by the APQO: email@example.com . Receipt will be acknowledged by the Academic Policy and Quality Office, who will then make arrangements for payment of your annual fee. To claim your expenses, please complete the claim form available on the APQO website, referring to the guidelines above.
Responses to reports
Once received, the APQO sends the report to the Subject Coordinator/Programme Lead or Liaison Manager (LMs are responsible for ensuring reports on collaborative provision are copied to programme managers at partner organisations) and other staff responsible for academic quality and standards of provision in the Faculty: namely, the Associate Dean (Student Experience), the Principal Lecturer for QA, and the Faculty Quality Officer.
Responses are prepared by the subject or programme lead, liaising as necessary with the Associate Dean (Student Experience) and support Directorates, to incorporate responses to any institutional issues that have been raised. Responses should be approved by the Faculty AESC Chair and sent out to the external examiner within six weeks of the report. If you have made negative answers to any of the yes/no standards questions on the report template, the Associate Dean will meet with the programme leader and other colleagues to address the issues immediately, and draw up an action plan for monitoring by the Faculty Academic Enhancement & Standards Committee.
Use of reports
Your annual report is a key source of evidence in the annual programme review process /asa/apqo/quality-and-standards-handbook/annual-review/ Any issues identified for action by the external examiner must be included in the annual review action plan, which should be shared with you. If it is not sent to you as a matter of course, please ask the Programme Lead or Programme Administrator.
An annual analysis of the institutional issues, identified good practice, and any areas of concern (that are serious, or common across a number of reports) raised in external examiners’ reports forms part of the Annual Quality Review prepared by the Head of the Academic Policy & Quality Office for consideration by the University’s Academic Enhancement & Standards Committee (or, for collaborative programmes, the Collaborative Provision Sub-Committee). External examiners’ reports, together with responses from programme teams, also provide direct evidence on the quality and standards of provision for periodic review and re-validation panels.
Publication of reports
External examiners’ reports are made available to University staff and students through publication on PIP. The University does not place the full reports received from external examiners in the public domain, but under the Freedom of Information Act it may be asked to release them on request. The information released in response to requests for the personal details of external examiners will be limited to name, job title and the name and address of the examiner’s employer as this concerns an examiner’s professional and working life and such information is considered to be already in the public domain. If an examiner is retired, they will be described as ‘independent’.
Serious concerns about academic standards and quality
You have the right to report directly to the Vice Chancellor on matters which you consider to pose a serious risk to the standards of an Oxford Brookes award. In this case, you may make a confidential report to the Vice Chancellor, Professor Alistair Fitt, at:
Oxford Brookes University
If you consider that the matters you have raised relate to particularly serious, University-wide problems which have not been properly addressed through the University’s internal procedures, you may wish to make use of the Quality Assurance Agency’s concerns procedure. The QAA will investigate concerns about UK higher education providers which indicate serious systemic or procedural problems - details of how to submit a concern can be found on the QAA website at http://www.qaa.ac.uk/concerns/concerns-about-providers
Oxford Brookes University websitehttps://www.brookes.ac.uk/
Information about the OBU Grade Point Average system/students/your-studies/grade-point-average/
Programme to Enhance the Student Experience (PESE)/staff/pese/
Examination Committee dateshttps://www.brookes.ac.uk/staff/academic/student-central/examination-committees/schedules/
Academic Policy & Quality Office web pageshttps://www.brookes.ac.uk/asa/apqo/
Oxford Brookes University handbook for external examinershttps://www.brookes.ac.uk/asa/apqo/external-examining/
Oxford Brookes University committeeshttps://sites.google.com/brookes.ac.uk/university-committees
UK Quality Code for HE http://www.qaa.ac.uk/quality-code
A handbook for external examining (Higher Education Academy, 2012)https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/HE_Academy_External_Examiners_Handbook_2012.pdf
(HEA is now part of AdvanceHE: https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/ )
Degree Standards Project (HEA)https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/degree-standards