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The University of Southampton
Quality HandbookExternal examiners

Induction and preparation

University induction

University induction is via an online External Examiner Information site which is where external examiners will find all the initial information required at an institutional level.  New external examiners will be sent a link to the site in their letter of appointment and asked to familiarise themselves with the content.  The site includes a section on support for new and first-time external examiners.   

Preparing external examiners to undertake the role

Schools are required to ensure that all external examiners are briefed on:

  • the relevant reference points for the programmes for which they are responsible;
  • the assessment procedures and the requirements of the programmes to which they have been appointed;
  • the evidence which he/she requires to exercise oversight;
  • the arrangements for communication with internal examiners and others involved in teaching and learning (including placement providers/assessors);
  • the arrangements for external moderation;
  • the arrangements for external examiners’ approval of the overall results.

The SAA Admin and Assessment Team will initiate the start of the induction process as soon as the appointment has been confirmed.  The Deputy Head of School (Education) or their nominee will be asked to arrange a School/programme level induction to ensure that the newly appointed external examiner is suitably prepared to fulfil the requirements of the role. A record is kept by the SAA Admin and Assessment Team to demonstrate that induction has taken place.

As part of the induction the SAA Admin and Assessment Team will ensure that the external examiner is given access to all the documentation he/she requires for the conduct of external examining duties. 

The induction will also include any additional support which may be required, for example arrangements for mentoring or shadowing, particularly for external examiners without previous external examining experience. 

Mentors, if appointed, will offer guidance on any aspect of the role of external examiner, depending on the needs of the individual including:

  • external and internal reference points in making a judgement about the appropriateness of academic standards and student achievement;
  • feedback on draft examination papers and other forms of assessment e.g. coursework;
  • reviewing samples of student work;
  • providing advice and feedback to the programme team and the Board of Examiners, as appropriate;
  • reporting requirements and guidance on writing an annual report;
  • general information and advice about current issues in HE that are relevant to external examining.

There is no requirement for face to face meetings between a mentor and mentee although, where appropriate, the external examiners concerned are encouraged to use the opportunity provided by attendance at the Board of Examiners for this purpose.

The School induction should therefore include:

  • a meeting or conversation between the external examiner and representatives of the Faculty/School, for example the Faculty Academic Registrar, and the Programme Team, to set out, within the discipline, the:
    • context and philosophy of the programme(s)
    • assessment criteria and procedures
    • relevant national subject benchmarks
  • an introduction to the Faculty/School/University’s policies, procedures and regulations concerning the structure and administration of examining and awarding boards (a link to the External Examiner Information site is provided in the letter of appointment where University level information is also available);
  • the University’s regulations on progression and classification of final awards, including School/programme-specific regulations where exemptions/variations from the University standard regulations have been approved;
  • content and structure of the programme and modules;
  • the University’s marking and moderation policies, highlighting that the University’s policy is that marking standards are to be scrutinised by means of moderation of a sample rather than by double marking;
  • introduction to staff and, if feasible, students;
  • the University’s policies on equal opportunities;
  • the individual examiner’s role in relation to the examining team as a whole and the extent of their discretion, making clear that it is not the role of external examiners to determine marks or degree classifications for individual candidates (see paragraph 13.4 below which describes the basis on which the selection of the students’ work will be made and provided);
  • confirmation of contractual arrangements such as the fees and expenses, period of appointment and dates of Board of Examiners’ meetings.

The School must ensure that the following documents are supplied or made available electronically to all external examiners on an annual basis:

  • the relevant programme specification(s) and module profiles;
  • level and classification descriptors for the programme(s) to be examined;
  • the University’s examination, progression and classification regulations;
  • assessment and marking criteria and associated policies and procedures for the programme(s) to be examined;
  • a link to or copies of the University’s Assessment Framework;
  • any other quality assurance materials that the external examiner may request;
  • a timetable/schedule of the examining process within the School;
  • details of procedures for claiming expenses and fees;
  • information about completing the external examiner’s report, and a link to the electronic template;
  • the previous external examiner’s last report (in the first year only). 

External examiners may also find it useful to refer to the Fundamentals of External Examining handbook and the Advance HE website as part of their induction.  The handbook is a reference source for external examiners and brings together the outcomes from research and development in the field.

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