External examining is one of the most distinctive features of UK higher education. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) recently published its operating model for quality assessment in higher education in England and Northern Ireland.
One of the key points of this model is to consider further strengthening the external examining system in a way that recognises the autonomy of higher education providers. There is a commitment to exploring different approaches to providing UK-wide training for external examiners and for the calibration of academic standards.
The project on degree standards, running from 2016 to 2021, is being managed by HEFCE on behalf of the devolved administrations. HEFCE have contracted the Higher Education Academy (HEA) to work across all four nations to facilitate a sector-owned development process focusing on the professional development for external examiners. The project has two interrelated parts:
- Working with a range of higher education providers to design and pilot generic professional development for external examiners
- Exploring different forms of calibration exercises with subject associations and Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs)
The project work will entail collaborative, consultative and dissemination activities involving key stakeholders, sector groups and networks in higher education, as well as regular updates on the project through the HEA website, social media and the External Examining JISCmail list.
Over recent years, the HEA has led work relating to external examining in UK higher education, including:
- The Review of External Examining Arrangements across the UK, which was published by HEFCE and contributed to its revised operating model for quality assessment in higher education in England (2015)
- In collaboration with the QAA, the HEA commissioned research and published a report on external examiners’ understanding and use of academic standards (2013)
- Producing the HEA’s External Examining handbook offering guidance, case studies and a main reference source for external examiners (2012)