Boards of Examiners
The University’s regulations concerning Boards of Examiners can be found in the Study Regulations for Undergraduate Programmes, regulations 1.4.2 – 1.4.13 and the Study Regulations for Postgraduate Taught Programmes, regulations 1.3.1 – 1.3.12.
This section of the Code of Practice offers guidance for Schools in the application of the University Regulations. In any case of a conflict of interpretation, the Regulations represent the official University position and take precedence.
The Authority of Boards of Examiners
Subject to procedures and regulations laid down by the Academic Council and Senate, University assessments are conducted under the supervision and control of Boards of Examiners.
The Head of School shall normally be the Chairperson of the Board of Examiners, except where circumstances dictate that the Head of School delegates this authority to a senior member of academic staff within the School. The Head of School shall appoint a Secretary from the School.
The University operates two tiers of Board: Subject Boards and Programme Boards. Where appropriate, the Subject and Programme Boards may be combined into one single Board.
A pre-board meeting is considered good practice. In a pre-board meeting, the Chair of the Board of Examiners and a relevant member of support staff meet to review marks in advance of a formal board meeting. The pre-board meeting offers an opportunity to identify any complex cases in advance.
Subject Boards of Examiners
The Head of School shall be responsible for ensuring that a Subject Board of Examiners is established for each subject taught by the School or in conjunction with a collaborative partner. The members shall be drawn from the academic staff teaching the subject.
The Subject Board(s) shall agree marks for all modules in that subject. Boards shall include within their membership the external examiner(s) appointed by the Education Committee on behalf of Academic Council for that subject.
The attendance of the Subject External Examiner at the Subject Board of Examiners meeting is encouraged but not required. In instances where the Subject External Examiner does not attend, the School must ensure that the external examiner has contributed fully to the moderation process, has provided comments to the Board, and has approved the final list of marks. In the exceptional circumstances where an external examiner feels unable to approve the final list of marks, this should be noted by the Secretary to the Board, and urgently communicated to the Director of Academic and Student Affairs and the Pro-Vice-Chancellor Education and Students.
Subject Boards are responsible only for marks or grades in the modules in a given subject in a given semester or year (as appropriate). A Subject Board does not review a student’s marks or grades in other subjects or in other semesters/years.
Where an external examiner is a member of a Subject Board, but is not required to be present at the meeting of that Board (for example, in Semester One Boards in the second and subsequent years of appointment), the Chair of the Board of Examiners must ensure that the external examiner is fully consulted by other means, and that they see samples of work. The Chair of the Board of Examiners is responsible in such cases for ensuring that the external examiner’s views are presented to the Board.
Programme Boards of Examiners
The Head of School shall be responsible for ensuring that a Programme Board of Examiners is established to deal with every programme offered by the School. If a programme involves more than one School, the Heads of School shall decide which one of them shall have overall responsibility for the Programme Board.
Programme Boards receive confirmed marks from Subject Boards, and must not change marks. On the basis of the marks received, Programme Boards make decisions on progression and award for each student. Programme Boards must take into consideration any recommendations made by an Exceptional Circumstances Committee, but must not discuss the exceptional circumstances of individual students.
The Programme Board shall consist of one or more representative from each Subject Board contributing to the Programme. For Programmes involving more than one Subject, the Chairperson and Secretary shall be agreed by the relevant Heads of School. The Programme Board shall include the Programme External Examiner, who may also be a Subject External Examiner from one of the relevant Subject Boards. The attendance of the Programme External Examiner at the Programme Board of Examiners meeting is required.
In the exceptional circumstances where an external examiner feels unable to approve the progression and award decisions of a Programme Board, this should be noted by the Secretary to the Board, and urgently communicated to the Director of Academic and Student Affairs and the Pro-Vice Chancellor Education and Students.
Not all external examiners will be members of both Subject and Programme Boards of Examiners. The Secretary of the Programme Board of Examiners should forward a summary of the final classifications agreed by the Programme Board to those examiners who sit on Subject Boards only, for their information.
In the interests of consistency of decision-making, Schools may wish to consider scheduling Programme Boards of Examiners which consider more than one programme, if practical.
Appointment of Examiners
Internal examiners are drawn from the academic staff teaching the subject. Internal examiners shall be appointed by the School on behalf of the Education Committee.
External examiners shall be appointed by the Education Committee on behalf of the Academic Council. The nominations must be submitted by the School on the standard external examiner nomination form. The Head of School must sign the standard external examiner nomination form before it will be accepted by the Education Committee.
External examiners shall normally be appointed for a term of four years. Except in cases where external examiners indicate that they cannot complete their terms of office, a Board may not propose the replacement of external examiners before their terms of office have expired without the permission of the Director of Academic and Student Affairs.
External examiners who retire from employment during their term of office can continue until the end of their period of appointment. Appointment will not normally extend beyond three years after retirement.
A person who has completed service as an external examiner may not normally be re-appointed as an external examiner until five years have elapsed since the end of their period of service.
Former members of staff may not be appointed as external examiners until five years have elapsed since the termination of their appointment at Queen’s.
Where internal examiners leave the University before the examinations for which they were appointed take place, they may be appointed as special internal examiners in addition to the normal internal and external examiners.
Where an examiner has a link with a student which might influence the examiner's judgement, the examiner shall inform the Chairperson of the Board of Examiners, who shall decide whether the examiner shall be involved in the assessment of that student. This should be reported to the Director of Academic and Student Affairs.
Procedures of Boards of Examiners
The Chairperson of the Board of Examiners shall be responsible to the Director of Academic and Student Affairs for ensuring that the approved procedures and regulations are followed by the Board and that the correct marks are published by the School.
The Secretary of the Board shall be responsible for keeping a record of all decisions and the reasoning behind them, and for ensuring that the minutes are retained in line with the School’s records management policy.
The Head of School must ensure that the relevant external examiners are consulted about proposed meetings of Boards of Examiners, and that the dates are confirmed as early as possible.
External examiners must attend the Board of Examiners’ meeting at the end of the second semester. External examiners shall normally attend at the end of the first semester in year one of their term of office, where appropriate, but need not attend at the end of the first semester in subsequent years.
In cases where external examiners are not present, they must be fully consulted by post, telephone or other means such as fax, videoconferencing, e-mail, Skype etc. It shall be the responsibility of the Chairperson of the Board of Examiners to ensure that the views of the other external examiners are presented to the Board.
If the opinion of the Board is equally divided, the Chairperson of the Board shall have the final casting vote (in addition to the Chairperson’s original vote as a member of the Board of Examiners). In all other cases it will be the majority decision of the members present of the Board of Examiners that will be upheld.
It is essential that external examiners sign the cover sheet containing the details of the modules examined and/or degree results at the end of each semester, in order for the marks to be released to students.
First Semester Modules
Results for first-semester undergraduate modules will be considered by Boards of Examiners after the first semester assessments. Boards will arrive at a provisional integer module mark for each student. The provisional marks will be signed by the Chair and the Secretary of the Board of Examiners (and, where applicable, the external examiner).
Boards of Examiners will consider provisional first-semester undergraduate module marks again when they meet in the summer. They will review all marks for the stage and agree confirmed marks for both first and second semester modules at that time. Boards have the discretion to revise provisional first semester marks upwards in the summer, but may not lower them.
When considering whether to revise provisional semester one undergraduate module marks upwards, the Board must ensure that all students are treated fairly. There must be evidence to support any change to a provisional mark, and the external examiner must be involved in the decision. The Secretary of the Board of Examiners is responsible for ensuring that the reasons for any change to provisional marks are recorded in the minutes.
The marks of first semester modules on taught postgraduate programmes will be confirmed at the end of semester one and released to students as confirmed marks.
Minutes of Boards of Examiners Meetings
The Secretary of the Board is responsible for keeping formal minutes which record all the Board’s decisions and the reasoning behind them, and for ensuring that the minutes are retained in line with the School’s records management policy. The Director of Academic and Student Affairs may undertake periodic audit sampling of the minutes of Boards of Examiners Meetings. Schools should therefore be aware that Academic Affairs may request copies of the minutes for specific meetings of Boards of Examiners.
Minutes should include the following:
- The name of the School.
- The name of the Board of Examiners.
- The date, time and place of the meeting.
- The names of those attending and the capacity in which they attended.
- A record of apologies for absence.
- A separate minute – with an appropriate heading, corresponding to the relevant heading on the agenda – for each topic covered.
- A reference to any supporting documentation, such as circulated papers.
- A clear and unambiguous record of each decision reached and of who is responsible for taking any action required.
- A record of any points raised by the external examiner (including those who are not present) and of the outcome.
- A note of the use of the conceptual equivalents scale.
Minutes of summer meetings of Boards of Examiners must also include:
- The reasons for any changes to provisional first semester marks.
- The reasons for any decision by the Board of Examiners to exercise discretion, including by discounting the lowest-scoring module mark for classification purposes. This includes cases where, after considering appropriate evidence, the Board has decided not to discount a module.
It should be noted that although examination scripts are exempt from disclosure under the Data Protection Act 1988, this exemption does not extend to examiners’ comments, minutes of Boards of Examiners meetings, or minutes of exceptional circumstances committee meetings. It is important that accurate records, at an appropriate level of detail, are kept of the consideration of exceptional circumstances, and of decisions made by Boards of Examiners.
School Exceptional Circumstances Committee
Each School should convene at least one School Exceptional Circumstances Committee to meet prior to the Board of Examiners to consider evidence of exceptional circumstances and make recommendations to the appropriate Board of Examiners regarding concessions. For further details, see the Exceptional Circumstances section of the Code of Practice on Examinations and Assessment.