5.6 Guidelines on the Role of External Examiners

1. External Examiners are appointed to undertake the tasks listed below. Having completed those tasks, they will report, in relation to the schemes/modules for which they have a responsibility, on whether:

(i) The standards set are appropriate for the programme’s awards, or award elements, by reference to national subject benchmarks, AU programme specifications and any other relevant points of reference

(ii) The standards of student performance in the programme(s), or parts of programme(s), are comparable to the standards of similar programmes in other UK higher education institutions

(iii) The processes for assessment, examination and determination of awards are sound and fairly conducted in accordance with AU examination conventions and procedures.

In order to fulfil these roles, External Examiners should have access to relevant information on the schemes/modules for which they have responsibility, to the work of students following the schemes/modules concerned and on the University’s examination conventions and procedures. External Examiners should also ensure that they are familiar with relevant aspects of the QAA UK Quality Code for Higher Education, and in particular the sections on External Examining and Assessment, relevant subject benchmarks and the Qualifications Framework: https://www.qaa.ac.uk/quality-code

It is expected that all modules that contribute to an award, or accreditation by an external accrediting body, will be externally examined.

2. External Examiners are expected to attend meetings of the relevant Departmental Examining Boards. Please note that all Departmental and Senate Examination Boards are now conducted virtually using MS Teams, unless a case has been successfully made by the department to the Academic Registrar for a board to be held in person. This includes all taught boards, including the research training board. Should an External Examiner be unable to attend an Examining Board meeting, alternative arrangements will be made to ensure that they are able to undertake the tasks listed below.

3. The primary role of External Examiners is to undertake the following tasks:

(i) Satisfy themselves that the assessment procedures accord with the programme specification(s)

(ii) Approve examination question papers and any other forms of assessment which are normally subject to prior approval by an External Examiner, for semesters one and two and the supplementary examination period.

(iii) Agree with the relevant departmental staff on an appropriate basis for the sampling of students’ assessed work

(iv) Audit evidence to indicate the basis on which marks have been awarded

(v) Satisfy themselves that appropriate provision has been made for the second marking and/or internal moderation of assessed work

(vi) Monitor, in consultation with the Departmental Examining Board, the consistency of standards across comparable scheme components/modules and approve, where necessary, adjustments to sets of marks, i.e. having reviewed all marks awarded for a particular module (or modules), make appropriate adjustments across the mark range

(vii) At the request of the relevant departmental staff, assist in the determination of individual cases which internal Examiners may have been unable to resolve

(viii) Contribute to the recommendations made by the Departmental Examining Board to the Senate Examining Board as to the degree classifications for single honours students, on whether taught postgraduate students should pass the degree with or without Distinction or Merit, and on exit awards for candidates unable or unwilling to proceed

(ix) Contribute to recommendations made by the Departmental Examining Board to the Senate Examining Board about undergraduate and postgraduate students whose overall performance falls within the ‘window of opportunity’

(x) Report to the University on the standards of student performance, on the standards of the awards and on the processes for assessment, examination and determination of awards

(xi) Comment on any proposal for a new or revised study scheme in a related field.

4. External Examiners on taught postgraduate schemes should in addition carry out the following tasks involving the dissertation element:

(i) Agree with the relevant departmental staff on the basis for sampling dissertations (see Section 3.2 of the AQH). The normal expectation would be that examiners on schemes with large cohorts would sample a number of dissertations rather than see every one

(ii) Monitor, in consultation with the Departmental Examining Board, the consistency of standards in the assessment of dissertations.

5. External Examiners may also, by agreement with the relevant departmental staff, undertake these additional tasks:

(i) Undertake oral examinations (modern language students)

(ii) Meet with a representative sample of students as an aid to the audit of standards

(iii) Meet a representative group of students to obtain a student viewpoint on matters within the External Examiner’s remit

(iv) Advise on course structures, and on proposals for new schemes, and new and restructured modules.

(v)  PGCE Primary/Secondary with QTS programmes of study - attend a number of placements each year as agreed in advance with the Head of Department/Programme Director.

(vi)  Undertake other in person engagements/visits as necessary as agreed in advance with the Head of Department, for example for schemes with a practical element or professional body requirement.

6. It is NOT the practice at Aberystwyth University for External Examiners to:

(i) Act as second markers of course assignments or examination scripts

(ii) Make selective adjustments to the marks of individual students whose work was included in the review sample

(iii) Use vivas for the purpose of grading the performance of an individual student or group of students, unless they have been approved as a formal part of the assessment process for a particular module.

7. External Examiners who, either in the course of the marking period or subsequently, consider that a candidate has engaged in an unfair assessment practice shall immediately report the circumstances in writing to the Chair of the Examining Board concerned.

8. The Senate External Reviewers shall oversee the operation of the Senate Examining Boards at which all results for taught schemes are confirmed. Their role is to ensure that the common systems governing undergraduate and taught postgraduate awards are operated fairly and consistently across the institution. They are asked in particular to carry out the following tasks:

(i) to attend the final Senate Undergraduate Examination Boards in June/July each session, and to attend the final Senate Postgraduate Exam Board in December. In addition, to be available for consultation at the time of the semester one and supplementary examination boards

(ii) to sign the Notification of Results Forms confirming that the degree classes and postgraduate results awarded to students have been awarded in a fair and consistent manner and according to AU’s rules, regulations and examination conventions

(iii) to offer comments and advice to the Senate Examination Boards on the handling of decisions affecting the degree classifications or postgraduate results of individual students

(iv) to write a report on the operation of the Board, commenting on whether it was operated fairly and consistently and in line with AU procedures, whether the standards of awards made were in line with other institutions with which the examiners are familiar, and to offer any comments on how the system might be improved.

9. Where at very short notice the External Reviewer is unable to attend, the Academic Registrar would seek to:

(i) secure the involvement of the Senate External Reviewer via video-conference or telephone

(ii) approach an existing External to participate via  telephone.

10. Associate Examiners will normally be asked only to confirm that the standards on the module(s) they have moderated are appropriate. Where they are working with a main External Examiner, they need not attend Examining Boards though they may choose to do so. If there is no main External Examiner, they would be expected to attend Examining Boards.