External examiners (taught programmes)

Staff member reading report

This page contains information for external examiners for taught programmes and modules and provides all the information in one place at the start and throughout their appointment. The information provided is in addition to the programme level information the School will provide. 

The external examiner system enables the University to ensure that the qualifications it awards are of a suitable standard and that student performance is judged appropriately. 

The University places great value on our external examiners and upon the expertise they bring to this role. We are grateful to all our external examiners for their input into our assessment processes and maintenance of our academic standards.

Guidance for external examiners and further information on the role

The role of the external examiner is to assure the academic standards set for, and achieved, by students and to assure the University that the assessment processes are sound and fairly operated by: 

  • Providing the University with impartial and independent advice and informed comment on the institution’s academic standards and student achievement in relation to these standards, through oversight of the assessment process at the module and programme/award level.
  • Scrutinising the marking and moderation procedures of the University, in order to ensure high academic standards, which are comparable with other universities in the sector.
  • Moderating the assessment process through reviewing assessed work and marks awarded by internal examiners.
  • Meeting with students and staff (as agreed between the School and the external examiner).
  • Reviewing the form and content of draft examination papers and coursework assessments.
  • Attending Board of Examiners meetings and scrutinising and endorsing outcomes.
  • Contributing to the enhancement of the student learning experience.
  • Providing an annual written report to the University on the above. 

Further information on the role can be found in the Guidance for external examiners (PDF - 575KB).

Relevant legislation

Information from your School

Once your appointment has been confirmed, your School should send you the materials you will need for your role. These include programme handbooks, student handbooks, key dates for the year (e.g. Board of Examiners meetings), specific modular information, and draft assessments (e.g. examination papers). 

You may also be invited by the School to visit the University to help familiarise yourself with the programme(s) you have been asked to examine, or to attend days where students work is on display (e.g. Poster Days).

Submitting a report and how we respond

External examiner recommendations will take the form of a report; any issues raised will be responded to by the School and considered by the University's Quality Assurance Committee. This web page provides information for external examiners about submitting a report and how we respond.

Information on the New Academic Teaching Year (from 2020-21)

This letter (PDF - 342Kb) provides information for external examiners regarding the University’s implementation of a New Academic Teaching Year structure from 2020-21.

This diagram (PDF - 408Kb) compares the previous academic teaching year structure to the New Academic Teaching Year structure (commencing 2020-21). 

University of Birmingham Dubai Campus and Degree apprenticeships

University of Birmingham Dubai Campus

A number of programmes run on the University of Birmingham Dubai Campus. External examiners responsible for the Birmingham-based programme will be asked to scrutinise the equivalent Dubai-based programme. It is not envisaged that there will be any need for external examiners to travel to Dubai. Schools will provide all local information for external examiners involved with Dubai provision. 

Degree apprenticeships

The University offers a range of Degree Apprenticeships across several subject disciplines. Degree Apprenticeships combine academic study with practical, work-based learning, and lead to apprentices being occupationally competent in line with industry needs.  Degree Apprenticeships can be integrated (where the University embeds the End Point Assessment (EPA) into the degree programme) or non-integrated (where an external independent EPA Organisation is appointed to facilitate the final assessment). In addition to reviewing Degree Apprenticeship programmes in line with standard University programmes, external examiners will also be required to have an understanding of the apprenticeship standard and work-based learning requirements

External examiner fees and expenses

The School concerned will agree an appropriate fee with the external examiner and will reimburse reasonable expenses incurred in performing the duties of the role. This web page provides information about the payment of external examiner fees and expenses.

AdvanceHE Professional Development Course for External Examiners

The AdvanceHE Professional Development Course for External Examiners (self-paced online and Zoom) is available for all interested Birmingham staff with an interest in external examining (admin/QAA, aspiring, new or experienced External Examines) as well as current and incoming External Examiners to Birmingham programmes.

The course will:

  • provide an understanding of the role of the external examiner as articulated in the UK Quality Code for Higher Education, 
  • consolidate understanding of the nature of academic standards and professional judgement, and explore the implications for external examining
  • develop an ability in using evidence-informed approaches to contribute to impartial, transparent judgements on academic standards and enhancing student learning.

For more details and to book onto the November and December course please register here 
For more information contact the Higher Education Futures Institute (HEFi) hefi@contacts.bham.ac.uk 

External examiners' frequently asked questions

How should I prepare for the role?

You should familiarise yourself with the information provided on this web page including guidance for external examiners (PDF- 575KB) and relevant Codes of Practice and legislation. You should also familiarise yourself with the programme(s) and/or modules that you examine, including the programme aims, learning outcomes, curriculum and teaching and assessment strategies. This information can be found in the information that is provided by the School. You should also familiarise yourself with external reference points, such as QAA Subject Benchmark Statements and QAA Characteristics Statements, as well as the requirements of any Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies.

Where can I find the University’s assessment regulations and policies and procedures?

The relevant legislation section of this external examiners web page contains links to the University’s legislation pages,  assessment regulations and relevant Codes of Practice, including the Code of Practice on External Examining (Taught Provision) and the Code of Practice on Taught Programme and Module Assessment and Feedback.

Where can I find the University’s procedures for external examining?

The University's procedures for external examining are to be found in the Code of Practice on External Examining (Taught Provision). The relevant legislation section of this external examiners web page contains links to the University’s legislation pages,  assessment regulations and relevant Codes of Practice, including the current Code of Practice on External Examining (Taught Provision).

What is the University’s policy on marking and moderation of assessment?

The University’s policy on marking and moderation of assessment is contained within the University’s Code of Practice on Taught Programme and Module Assessment and Feedback. The relevant legislation section of this external examiners web page contains links to the University’s legislation pages,  assessment regulations and relevant Codes of Practice, including the current Code of Practice on Taught Programme and Module Assessment and Feedback.

What are the expectations for feedback on assessment

The expectations for feedback on assessments are outlined in the University’s Code of Practice on Taught Programme and Module Assessment and Feedback. The relevant legislation section of this external examiners web page contains links to the University’s legislation pages,  assessment regulations and relevant Codes of Practice, including the current Code of Practice on Taught Programme and Module Assessment and Feedback.

What is my role in marking/moderation procedures?

One of the main roles of the external examiner is to scrutinise the marking and moderation procedures of the University. We do not ask external examiners to determine marks for individual students, but to consider, and provide feedback on, the consistency and accuracy of marking across a cohort by reviewing the marking within each module, and between modules of the same level.

External examiners should be provided with all draft examination papers and other major pieces of assessment that contribute to the final award for comment and approval, together with model answers, where appropriate. Where you have provided suggestions for amendment, Schools should reply to you to confirm how your advice has been acted upon. The School will inform you of your role with respect to work samples, but as a general rule, the following list gives an idea of what you should be looking at:

  • The work sample should be from across the full mark range;
  • There should be a clear indication of how a mark has been arrived at;
  • There should be evidence of the moderation process (e.g. markers’ comments);
  • Markers’ comments should map on to the relevant marking criteria and reflect the mark awarded

Where can I find the template for my annual report and when do I need to return it?

Reports are submitted via an online form. A unique link to your online form would normally be emailed to you at least 6 weeks before the report is due.  Reports relating to undergraduate provision should be submitted by 10th July and reports relating to postgraduate taught provision should be submitted by 9th November. External Examiner Report Questions (PDF 347KB) may be useful to those who would like to see the questions in advance of completing the online form (however, please note that only submissions received via the online form will be accepted).

This web page provides information for external examiners about submitting a report and how we respond.

What is my role at the Board of Examiners?

External examiners are considered full members of the Board of Examiners. Dates for the Boards of Examiners meetings should be communicated to you by the School well in advance.  External examiners attend Board of Examiners meetings to scrutinise and endorse the outcomes of the assessment process to which they have been appointed, confirming a set of results at module-level and/or the decisions taken (e.g. awards, withdrawals) at programme level, as appropriate (where a team of external examiners is appointed, a representative may be identified to endorse programme-level decisions).

Will I have the opportunity to meet with students?

The University encourages external examiners to meet with representative groups of students in order to discuss their experiences of the programme of study, so you can provide useful feedback to the School. Your School should offer you this opportunity and please feel free to request such a meeting if one is not offered to you. The meetings are usually held in relatively informal circumstances such as over lunch. Schools should inform students of the purpose of these meetings, and the limitations (e.g. not being able to discuss individual assessment outcomes). If you are unable to attend a meeting in person at the University, alternative arrangements, via Skype for example, are permitted and should be discussed with your School contacts. 

Where can I get an expenses claim form and where should I send it?

This web page provides information about the payment of external examiner fees and expenses.

When will I be paid my fee and when should I expect to receive it?

This web page provides information about the payment of external examiner fees and expenses.

A student studying at the University of Birmingham has contacted me directly in my capacity as External Examiner to raise a concern. What should I do?

Under no circumstances should students attempt to contact an External Examiner and External Examiners are not permitted to respond to contacts made by third parties including students or their representatives. If any such contacts are attempted, you should report the details immediately to the University, through the Head of School. If a student is found to have contacted an External Examiner they may be subject to University disciplinary procedures as set out in Regulation 8: Conduct.

What happens if I move to another institution during my appointment?

Please notify us immediately if you move to another institution during your period of appointment.  You can inform the administrative team in the School, or inform Registry via externalexaminers@contacts.bham.ac.uk. The University will carry out any necessary checks to ensure that your change in circumstances does not result in a conflict of interest being created.

If I am unable to complete my tenure, what should I do?

During your 4-year tenure there may come a point where you feel that, because of a change in your own circumstances, you are unable to continue your duties as external examiner. If this should occur the University would be grateful if you would notify us in writing, giving a three-month notice period. Letters of resignation should be sent to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) and the Head of School via externalexaminers@contacts.bham.ac.uk.

Additional questions?

Should you have any additional questions, please contact us.

Further help and information

Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) links:

Higher Education Academy (HEA) documents:

For questions about their appointment, fee or the programme they are examining, external examiners should contact the School concerned in the first instance.

If the School is unable to help, external examiners can contact Registry (policy and quality) at externalexaminers@contacts.bham.ac.uk

External Examiner data

The University of Birmingham will process data relating to your appointment including your name, your current post, the Higher Education institute (or other place of work) that employs you, and the correspondence address, telephone and email address for your place of work.  The University of Birmingham will keep a record of this data for a maximum period of 5 years from the end date of your appointment. Information collected will be used to ensure the University’s external examiner system operates in accordance with QAA requirements. Please note that external examiner annual reports will be retained indefinitely.  To find out how the University uses personal data, please read our privacy statements.