Academic Manual


Section 4: External Examining

Published for 2023-24

4.1 Criteria for Appointment4.5 Student Contact with External Examiners
4.2 Responsibilities of UCL4.6 Entitlements of External Examiners
4.3 Responsibilities of the External Examiner4.7 External Examiner Reports
4.4 Nomination and Appointment 

1.External examining provides one of the principal means of maintaining UK academic standards within autonomous higher education providers. External Examining is therefore an important part of UCL’s Quality Review Framework (QRF). The following regulations are applicable only to taught programmes of study, including Undergraduate, Initial Teacher Education and Postgraduate. 

4.1 Criteria for Appointment

1.External Examiners must be appointed for all taught programmes delivered by UCL and academic partner institutions. 
2.External Examiners must be competent in assessing students' knowledge and skills at higher education level; expert in the field of study concerned and have appropriate academic and/or professional experience and authority. 
3.External Examiners appointed to programmes must meet any specified qualification requirements of the relevant Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies.  
4.External Examiners must be from outside UCL and must not be involved in teaching on the programme, or be involved in collaborative activity with the staff or students of that programme, for five years before their term of office and during their term of office. This includes Honorary staff members. 
5.Former members of UCL staff and former UCL students must not be appointed as External Examiners before a lapse of at least five years. It must also be ensured that all students taught by that former member of staff have left the programme being examined 
6.External Examiners should not normally hold more than one other substantive External Examinership in addition to their appointment for UCL.  
7.External Examiners should not be appointed to examine a single module unless there is a good reason for doing so. 
8.External Examiners for undergraduate Boards of Examiners must be eligible to work in the UK.  
9.A member of the academic staff of a College of the University of London other than UCL, or any other external institution with which UCL has service teaching arrangements, may be appointed as an External Examiner. It is imperative that the Board of Examiners at UCL, on which the appointee will serve, so far as can be anticipated, is examining no students from the appointee’s college. 
10.An External Examiner will not be appointed from a department/division in which a member of UCL staff is serving as an External Examiner. Boards of Examiners must check these details with staff in their Department and with the nominee prior to submitting the nominee’s details.   
11.Only one External Examiner from the same department/division or Faculty of an institution will be appointed to examine the same programme at any one time. 
12.An External Examiner may be appointed from the same department/division or Faculty of an institution only after at least two years have elapsed since the termination of the previous appointment from that department/division or Faculty. 
13.Exceptions to the foregoing stipulations may on occasion be permitted, for example, in the case of subjects taught only in a very small number of institutions or subjects with an unusually high number of specialisms. These exceptions must be granted by the Quality and Standards Committee (QSC) Chair or nominee. Requests for exceptions should be sent to examiners@ucl.ac.uk.
14.External Examiners must declare, at the time of appointment, or continuation in appointment, any interest in or connection with any student or staff on the programme for which they are acting as External Examiner whether that interest or connection is personal or professional. If such an interest or connection exists, the External Examiner in question should not be appointed or re-appointed. The Chair of the Board of Examiners is responsible for managing this process and should notify any cases to the QSC Chair or nominee, via examiners@ucl.ac.uk.
15.After serving for a period of four consecutive years, (or five years if an extension to service was approved by the QSC Chair or nominee) an External Examiner is not eligible for re-appointment for a period of five years. The period of service is defined as the period of service as an External Examiner at UCL and not as the period of service as External Examiner to a particular Board of Examiners.

4.2 Responsibilities of UCL

1.At the time of nomination Departments and Student & Registry Services should provide the External Examiner with sufficient information to enable him/ her to make an informed decision as to whether or not to accept the appointment.  
2.Student & Registry Services issue an appointment email clarifying information on payment of fees and expenses and details of UCL’s academic regulations. This appointment email acts as a four-year contract letter for the External Examiner.
3.Departments should ascertain whether or not External Examiners have any access requirements or require any reasonable adjustments in order to carry out their duties, as outlined in UCL’s Equal Opportunity Policy
4.UCL will pay expenses promptly on receipt. The fee will be paid on receipt of the External Examiner’s report, provided that it is submitted via Portico within one month of receiving the email with the Portico report link (this email will be sent within a week of the Board of Examiners meeting).
5.Postgraduate External Examiners are registered at UCL as self-employed and are therefore required to declare their income and payment of any sums owed to the HMRC directly.
6.Departments should take the opportunity to meet new External Examiners either online or in person ahead of their first Board of Examiners, to ensure that this meeting is not the first time at which they meet the generality of academic staff.  
7.As a minimum, Departments must provide new and continuing External Examiners with the following information by the start of the academic year:  
 i)Name(s) and contact details for the Chair of the Board of Examiners, Board Administrators and Examinations Liaison Officers.
 ii)The date(s) of meetings of Board of Examiners to which the External Examiner is invited.
 iii)The Terms of Reference, Constitution and Membership of the Board (e.g., number of Internal Examiners and any interdepartmental/ interdivisional involvement).
 iv)The number and subject area of other External Examiners appointed to the Board.
 v)The Student Handbook or equivalent, Programme Summary and/ or syllabus and module information.
 vi)The programme regulations to be used in determining student Progression, Awarding and Classification.
 vii)Marking criteria.
 viii)Reports of External Examiners from the previous cycle and the departmental responses.
 ix)Timescales for the external examiner process including when to expect items for review, and when to expect access to Moodle/ IT systems.

4.3 Responsibilities of the External Examiner 

1.The primary responsibilities of a Taught Programme External Examiner are to assure themselves that summative assessment tasks are being set at an appropriate level and standard for the module and to submit an annual report via Portico, based upon their professional judgement, about the following aspects of the programme(s) they examine:
 i)Whether the academic standards set for the programme qualifications are appropriate.  
 ii)The extent to which the assessment processes are rigorous, ensure equity of treatment for students and have been fairly conducted within UCL’s regulations and guidance.  
 iii)The standards of student performance in the programme, or parts of programmes, which they have been appointed to examine.  
 iv)To formally delegate authority to Sub Boards to make decisions on their behalf.  
 v)Where appropriate, the comparability of the standards and student achievements with those in some other higher education institutions in the UK.  
 vi)Identify comparable practice.
 It is not an External Examiner’s responsibility to mark any form of summative assessment.
2.The External Examiner’s Report Form requests External Examiners to suggest recommendations based on areas of concern not satisfactorily resolved at the meetings of the Board of Examiners.  
3.The form must be completed on Portico (UCL's student and assessment record system) within one month of receiving the email with the Portico report link (this email will be sent within a week of the Board of Examiners meeting), so that External Examiner’s comments can be taken into account for the next academic session. Please refer to the External Examiners webpages for details on the External Examiners Reporting procedures. Payment of the External Examiner’s fee is authorised when the report is received via Portico by Student & Registry Services and within the required timeframe.  
4.External Examiners should consider the totality of the degree in respect of both the syllabus and examination. The major part of their role should be devoted to modules and the assessment elements which are the main determinants of the degree classification. (In some cases this will not be possible as External Examiners are appointed to examine specific module(s) and not a full programme).  
6.External Examiners should review new summative assessment tasks to ensure that they are being set at an appropriate level and standard for the module.
7.To review students’ assessments, External Examiners will be sent a representative sample of a range of assessments that will enable them to make an informed judgement as to whether the internal marking is of an appropriate standard, consistent and fair to all students. This representative sample must include work from all modules the External Examiner oversees.
8.External Examiners may be invited to attend oral / practical examinations and assessments as observers.
9.External Examiners may recommend to the Board of Examiners changes to the marks already arrived at by the Internal Examiners if these appear to them to be inappropriate. Where significant changes are recommended by External Examiners it is essential for them to see all the assessments for that component of the assessment.
10.When reviewing students’ assessments External Examiners should comply with data protection regulations, maintaining confidentiality of the content of students’ work.
11.External Examiners will be sent details of other local responsibilities which may exist for the programme(s) they examine.

4.4 Nomination and Appointment

4.4.1 Process of Nomination

1.The Chair of a Board of Examiners must take account of the appointment criteria specified in Section 4.1 ‘Criteria for Appointment’ when nominating an External Examiner for all or part of a taught programme, and submit details via the External Examiner Details Nomination Form.
2.External Examiners must be appointed before the start of the academic session so that they can approve assessment tasks in good time. Nominees must not be asked to undertake any duties until their appointment is formally approved.  
 Further Guidance
1.On approval by  Academic Policy, Quality and Standards, the External Examiner is appointed by UCL for a period of 4 years.
2.Chairs of Boards should consider the travelling distances involved from a proposed External Examiner’s place of residence to UCL, practicalities of travel and the likely costs to UCL in expenses, noting that Student & Registry Services is only able to reimburse up to certain values, and any additional sums will be charged to the relevant department / division. Please refer to the UCL Expenses policy.        
3.The appointment of overseas External Examiners should be limited.     
4.It is the responsibility of the Chair of the Board of Examiners to verify eligibility of UG External Examiners to work in the UK. The guidance set out on the UCL Human Resources - Immigration website should be followed.   
5.Boards of Examiners should avoid appointing excessive numbers of External Examiners.   

4.4.2 Period of Appointment

1.External Examiners are appointed for a period of four academic years.   
2.In exceptional circumstances, External Examiners may have their four-year term extended for one further academic session only, subject to the approval of the Quality and Standards Committee. Chairs of Boards of Examiners are responsible for requesting extensions for their External Examiners via submission of the form: Extension Request for UCL External Examiners
3.If it is decided that an External Examiner will finish their term before the four-year period is completed, the Chair of the Board must formally notify the External Examiner concerned and inform the Chair of Quality and Standards Committee of the decision via examiners@ucl.ac.uk with a brief statement of reason.

4.4.3 Continuation of Appointment

1.An External Examiner has the right not to seek continuation in appointment at any time during the period in which they are eligible to serve. See point below for details on early termination of appointment. 
2.If an External Examiner interrupts his/her service, the interrupted period does not count when calculating the total period of service. examiners@ucl.ac.uk should be informed of any interruption of service before the interruption takes place.  

4.4.4 Termination of Appointment

1.UCL reserves the right not to continue the appointment at any time during the period that the External Examiner is eligible to serve. External Examiners will be formally notified by the Chair of the Board as outlined in Section 4.4.2 Period of Appointment.  
2.If the External Examiner wishes to terminate their appointment, this should normally be arranged to take effect at the end of an academic year, but in any case is subject to three months’ notice.

4.5 Student Contact with External Examiners

1.UCL is required to provide details of its External Examiners, for information only, to students, including the name and institution of the External Examiner.  
2.Students must not make direct contact with External Examiners regarding their individual performance in assessments. Appropriate mechanisms are available to raise these concerns through the procedures set out in Chapter 6, Section 7: Academic Appeals Procedure. External Examiners should inform examiners@ucl.ac.uk should a student contact them. 
3.External Examiners may be given an opportunity to meet students to ascertain their thoughts about the strengths and weaknesses of their educational experience at UCL. This is not something that is routinely offered to External Examiners but can be arranged by the programme / board administrators should the External Examiner wish to meet students.  

4.6 Entitlements of External Examiners 

1.External Examiners are entitled to withhold their approval to decisions of the Board of Examiners under the following circumstances: 
 i)They are in a dispute with those decisions which cannot be resolved at Board of Examiner level. 
 ii)They are not satisfied that the examination procedures have been properly carried out. 
 iii)They perceive serious deficiencies in the examination procedures. In all such exceptional circumstances the matter in question will be referred directly to the UCL Quality and Standards Committee.
 iv)External Examiners have the right to raise matters of serious concern at the highest level of UCL, either with the Chair of Quality and Standards Committee or Vice-Provost (Education & Student Experience). When all institutional avenues have been exhausted, External Examiners may contact QAA through its Concerns scheme route.   

4.7 External Examiner Reports 

4.7.1 Distribution of Reports and Response to Reports  

1.The process for considering External Examiners’ reports is set out in the External Examiners’ Reporting Process (refer to the External Examining webpage).
2.Access to these documents will be provided to students via UCL’s student records system, Portico, and should also be discussed at Departmental Staff-Student Consultative Committees.
3.A flow chart for the External Examiner Reporting process is available on the External Examining webpage

4.7.2 Monitoring of Reports and Responses

1.Education Services will monitor responses to all reports. A step by step process for monitoring External Examiners’ reports and responses to the reports and a flow chart for the External Examiner Reporting process is available on the External Examining webpage. In order to help faculty and departmental internal processes, an optional template to record departmental Chair of Board responses to External Examiners’ recommendations is at Annex 9.4.1 (please note that this document cannot be uploaded to Portico as a departmental response).
2.External Examiners will be asked to make recommendations within their report and grade these as Essential, Advisable or Desirable. The report must make clear whether or not there are, in the Examiners’ opinion, any risks to academic standards on the module/programme.  If External Examiners are satisfied that no recommendations are required, they should clearly state this in the relevant sections of the report. They are asked not to leave sections blank. The definitions for the three categories are as follows:
 i)Essential: Serious areas of concern which, in your opinion, place academic standards and/or the student learning experience at immediate risk and requires action before the start of the next academic year.
 ii)Advisable: Areas of concern regarding threshold standards which, while currently being met, in your opinion, could be significantly improved.
 iii)Desirable: Areas where, in your opinion, there is potential for enhancement.
3.A designated member of academic staff should be available to respond to External Examiners’ recommendations within the specified timeframe. The Chairs of Boards of Examiners must ultimately be responsible for drafting a response if the designated academic has conflicting responsibilities. 
4.APQS will prepare annual reports on matters of general interest and concern for wider dissemination to Quality and Standards Committee.
5.A Department’s (or partner institution's) annual main meeting of the Board of Examiners for a programme at which an External Examiner is present should include early in its agenda a copy of the report and the Department’s response for the previous year.