Rights and Responsibilities of External Examiners

The following text has been extracted from the University of Suffolk’s External Examiners Policy.

The central duties of the External Examiner are to provide informative comment and recommendations upon whether or not:

  • the University of Suffolk is maintaining the threshold academic standards set for its awards in accordance with the frameworks for higher education qualifications, applicable subject benchmark statements and the requirements of relevant PSRBs;
  • the assessment process measures student achievement rigorously and fairly against the intended outcomes of the programme(s) and is conducted in line with the institution’s policies and regulations;
  • the academic standards and the achievements of students are comparable with those in other UK higher education institutions of which the External Examiners has experience; and to provide informative comment and recommendations on:
  • good practice and innovation relating to learning, teaching and assessment observed by the External Examiners;
  • opportunities to enhance the quality of the learning opportunities provided to students.

Prior to the confirmation of mark lists, pass lists or similar documents, the External Examiner is required to confirm the outcomes of the assessment processes they have been appointed to scrutinise. In particular, they are required to confirm that:

  • they have had sufficient access to relevant evidence (including student work and moderation records) to enable them to make their judgements;
  • the marks / grades proposed at the board are appropriate;
  • the assessment processes set out by the University for the course(s) have been adhered to.

In order to fulfil this role, the External Examiner has the following rights and responsibilities:   

The External Examiner has the right:

  • to be briefed by the Course Leader on their tasks as soon as possible either in person or virtually. In cases of Practice Assessment, the External Examiner has the right to visit one or more practice locations. (The Course Leader should normally make contact with the External Examiner within two weeks of notification to the School or partner institution that an appointment has been made);
  • to be informed of dates of Assessment Boards, and any subsequent changes in dates, in a timely manner;
  • to continued updating by the Course Leader regarding changes in content or practice within the course in question;
  • to be consulted about any proposed changes to assessment regulations directly affecting students currently on the course. The University of Suffolk retains the authority to consider and approve all changes to regulations;
  • to be consulted about any proposed changes associated with re-approval or modification processes for the course in question, and be provided with revised course documentation following the completion of these processes.
  • of access to all draft assessment materials which they have to verify and the right to suggest appropriate revisions in accordance with the Assessment Moderation Policy;
  • of access to all assessed student work which contributes summatively to the award classification/grading;
  • of access to course materials including definitive course records and module specifications;
  • to meet with internal examiners (either virtually or in person) prior to the Assessment Board;
  • to conduct or attend a viva voce examination of any candidate where, in exceptional cases, the assessment regulations allow. It is not standard University of Suffolk practice to conduct viva voce examinations;
  • to meet with students if this is a requirement of the relevant PSRB; where such meetings are not a requirement, course teams are expected to make best efforts to facilitate opportunities for External Examiners to meet with students.
  • to participate in decisions relating to cases of proven cheating/assessment offences in accordance with the Academic Misconduct Policy;
  • to be informed by the Course Leader of the arrangements for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) candidates;
  • of access to previous External Examiners’ recent reports and to recent Assessment Board minutes;
  • of access to quantitative data on current and recent cohorts’ student performance;
  • to request such other materials as are commensurate with the role;
  • to be informed by the Course Leader of any arrangements regarding students on the course in question who might be undertaking a period of study in another institution.

The External Examiner has the responsibility:

  • to provide confirmation on proposed mark and awards (as set out in paragraph above) to all formal assessment boards at which student results are presented.
  • to attend, either virtually or in person, formal Assessment Board meetings as follows:
  • External Examiners overseeing awards attend all formal assessment boards at which decisions or recommendations for awards, or decisions regarding progression, are made. Non-attendance at an Assessment Board which makes recommendations for awards is only permissible with the explicit approval of the Academic Registrar. In such cases, External Examiners are responsible for providing assurance that the results to be presented at the board are suitable for ratification, and to provide feedback on issues pertinent to the Assessment Board’s considerations;
  • External Examiners overseeing modules but not overseeing awards attend at least one formal Assessment Board in each academic year.

While we would expect Chief External Examiners to attend all formal Assessment Boards at which decisions or recommendations for awards, or decisions regarding progression, are made, we recognise that exceptionally this may prove an unreasonable load.  In such circumstances, course teams are expected to work with the Academic Registrar to agree on a reasonable expectation of attendance that secures the academic standards on the course.

Where scheduling of Assessment Boards will cause difficulties for an External Examiner to attend (either virtually or in person), the External Examiner should liaise in a timely manner to explore whether alternative scheduling could be arranged. 

  • to seek to ensure that there has been consistency and equity of application of course regulations and of the procedures of the institution;
  • to judge student performance impartially on the basis of work submitted for assessment;
  • to draw to the attention of the Assessment Board any disagreement with the overall marking standard. This should include marks for any element of the award along with any recommendation for a cohort’s marks to be remarked or scaled. Confirmed marks are, however, the decision of the relevant Assessment Board and the External Examiner is not empowered to amend individual student marks;
  • to seek to ensure that awards made are comparable in standard to those in similar subjects at the same level offered in other institutions nationally and that standards have been appropriately applied; to comment on teaching standards as revealed in students’ assessments;
  • to oversee the procedures for the drafting of assignments and papers contributing towards the award(s), in accordance with the Assessment Moderation Policy;
  • to approve summative assessments (examination papers/questions and proposed assignments);
  • to sample the assessment of work, in accordance with the Assessment Moderation Policy, in order to ensure that each student has been fairly assessed, is fairly placed and accurately graded in relation to the rest of the cohort;
  • to engage with the University of Suffolk on-line facilities (i.e. Brightspace) or equivalent within partner institutions in order to access course information, student work, and records of the assessment processes;
  • to comment on the assessment process, the schemes for marking and classification and the Assessment Board procedures;
  • to submit an annual report (as outlined in paragraphs 19 - 20 below) by the agreed deadline;
  • to attend academic appeal hearings if called as a witness;
  • to declare any changes in their status and circumstances which may prejudice the role of External Examiner;
  • to comment on proposed changes to courses post-validation including learning outcomes and the appropriateness of teaching and assessment methods.