Plans for the project to pilot the process of professional development for external examiners in higher education are announced today.
External examining is one of the most distinctive features of UK HE. Following the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (HEFCE) recently-published operating model for quality assessment in higher education in England, a commitment was made to further strengthen external examining in a way that recognises the autonomy of higher education providers.
The project is being managed by HEFCE on behalf of the devolved administrations. HEFCE have contracted the Higher Education Academy (HEA) to facilitate the sector-led project. It will be informed by the different quality assurance arrangements and higher education policies in place across the four nations. The project will also respect the responsibility of individual degree-awarding bodies for setting and maintaining standards.
The project, which will run to 2021, has two interrelated parts:
Working with a range of higher education providers to design and pilot generic professional development for external examiners.Institutions already involved in the pilot include: University of Liverpool, Oxford Brookes University, the Royal Northern College of Music, Cardiff Metropolitan University and Queens University Belfast.
Exploring different forms of calibration exercises with subject associations and Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs). Subject Associations already involved in the pilot include: the Royal Geographical Society, the English Association, the Veterinary Schools Council Education Group and the Health and Care Professional Council.
External examiners will be able to get involved by enrolling on an Online Pilot Course as part of year-one, or by engaging in one of the four regional pilot courses. More details about these opportunities will be published shortly on the HEA’s dedicated project webpage.
The project work will include 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 JISC mailbases.
Dr. Geoff Stoakes Head of Special Projects at the HEA, said: “External examiners have a huge responsibility and it’s important that the sector develops the framework where they are supported to carry out their role. We’re looking forward to playing our part in making that happen.
“It’s very encouraging that we have already have a diverse group of institutions offering pilot programmes and that we are in productive discussion with PSRBs and others about calibration.”
HEA work in external examining
Over recent years, the HEA has led and facilitated a range of 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).
Production of the HEA’s External Examining handbook offering guidance, case studies and a main reference source for external examiners (2012).
Over the past 18 months, the HEA has worked closely with a number of PVCs through the HEA PVC Working Group on External Examining.