The Professional Development Course for External Examiners has been created by the HEA on behalf of the UK funding bodies, and is overseen by the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment.
Participants of the course may wish to know more about how the course aligns with the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF), which is a comprehensive set of professional standards and guidelines for everyone involved in teaching and supporting learning in higher education. The UKPSF consists of Dimensions of the Framework (Areas of Activity, A1-A5, Core Knowledge, K1-K6 and Professional Values, V1-V4) and four different descriptors (D1-D4), which set out expectations for different types of professional practice related to teaching and learning. The HEA awards four categories of HEA Fellowship based on individuals meeting the requirements of one of the four UKPSF descriptors. To date, over 87,000 HEA fellowships have been awarded.
If you work for a UK University, your institution may offer opportunities to achieve HEA fellowship through an accredited programme or scheme. You should check your accredited scheme and be aware of their requirements. If your institution does not have an accredited scheme, you can apply directly to the HEA for fellowship; more information is available on our website.
HEA fellows are expected to engage in appropriate continuing professional learning throughout their career, and attendance at HEA events offers an opportunity to do this.
Aligning your external examining experience to the UKPSF When you prepare an application for fellowship of the HEA, you will need to consider how your external examining experience relates to the dimensions of the UKPSF. For each level of fellowship, you will need to provide evidence of relevant experience and impact. For example, if you are applying for SFHEA, you should show evidence of leadership (e.g. influencing and mentoring other colleagues’ practices).
The main UKPSF Dimensions of Practice you engage with during the Professional Development Course for External Examiners are A3, A5, K6 and V3. The course activities enable you to engage with these dimensions in different ways, depending on your experience. As a guideline, aspiring external examiners with substantive teaching roles may be aiming to apply for Fellowship of the HEA (FHEA), existing external examiners with a leadership role in their departments, may aim for Senior Fellowship (SFHEA) and experienced external examiners with a strategic role in their institution or their subject networks or Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) may aim for Principal Fellowship (PFHEA).
The The UKPSF: dimensions and their relevance to the Professional Development Course for External Examiners sets out each dimension, its description and relevance of the dimension to the Professional Development Course for External Examiners. The last column gives illustrations of how you might apply your knowledge of academic standards within your teaching, programme or institution at each level of fellowship.
At FHEA you are concerned primarily with your substantial teaching and/or supporting learning role and with academic standards as they relate to module design and assessment processes. At SFHEA, you will have a leadership role and be concerned with the co-ordination, management or mentoring of others, seeking to influence sound practice around academic standards. Being an external examiner and developing a good understanding of academic standards and the complexities of the issues concerned is most likely to relate to this category of Fellowship. The role of external examiners is about safeguarding and, if required, influencing the standards applied in another institution, so very much impacting on the practices of others, which a key characteristic of SFHEA. The knowledge gained on the course and through being an external examiner at another institution will also enable you to work with colleagues in your home institution to ensure appropriate standards in programmes internally. Your ability to support others in relation to academic standards will be based on carrying out your role as external examiner and participating in the course as this will provide you with a thorough understanding of standards as part of an ‘effective approaches to teaching and learning support’, as required by Descriptor 3 of the UKPSF.
At PFHEA, you will have a strategic role across your institution, or subject networks, nationally and/or internationally and will have a role in establishing and championing effective practices around academic standards.