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The external examiner’s principal role is to provide a judgement on the rigour of the University’s processes for maintaining academic standards, and on the comparability of the standards achieved by students on Oxford Brookes awards with those on similar programmes in other UK higher education institutions. The primary formal roles of external examiners are therefore to:
External examiners maintain an oversight of the processes for the assessment of all work that counts towards the final award by sampling assessed work. Normally, unless the number of assessment items is sufficiently small for all to be scrutinised, subject or programme teams will reach an agreement with external examiners on the size and scope of the sample of assessed work to be submitted for inspection. This should include representative samples of each grade or class of degree, borderline cases, cases of failure, malpractice or those affected by illness etc.
Some forms of assessment are more difficult than others to sample (e.g. presentations, performances, etc) and Programme Leads should agree in advance with the external examiner on the sampling process for these types of assessment. Where an oral examination is compulsory for all students, this will be stated in the approved assessment strategy for a programme or module. If a viva voce examination is required, the external examiner should be present.
External examiners should be sent copies of the relevant grading schemes and assessment criteria together with a record of marks for each assessment item. It is expected that 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:
At least one external examiner for the provision under consideration must be present at every examination committee, either in person or via telephone or video link (COVID-19 restrictions mean that examination committees will be held remotely via an appropriate platform, such as Google Meet or Zoom for the foreseeable future). An examination committee which does not include an approved external examiner is not authorised to recommend the conferment of awards. Failure to attend such meetings without good reason will be seen as a breach of contract for which the University has the right to terminate the examiner’s appointment.
In order to facilitate attendance, the Programme Portfolio Manager or Programme Administrator should provide external examiners with the dates of the relevant examination committee meetings as soon as possible after the start of each academic year. The responsibility for confirming marks and awards is the collective responsibility of the examination committee, but the external examiner must endorse the recommendations of the committee. In the event of a dispute between internal and external examiners which cannot be resolved, the matter should be referred to the Chair of Academic Board (the VC) or their nominee.
The secondary roles of external examiners are to:
External examiners will also be consulted on changes to programmes where these lead to alterations to learning outcomes and assessment. The external examiner may be requested to act on occasion as a ‘critical friend’ giving advice on curriculum development to ensure the maintenance of quality and standards in new and revised programmes. The external examiner must be informed of major changes to programmes and may be consulted in advance about proposed changes, particularly where they affect programme titles, learning outcomes, assessment criteria or the assessment process.
These may extend to: