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External examiners do not mark student work. They have two main functions: to act as moderators and to act as consultants. The University defines these roles as follows.

The primary role of a subject external examiner is as a moderator. In this role, external examiners ensure that the assessment system is equitable and operates fairly in the classification of students. This work normally includes:

  1. Approving draft examination papers and other significant components of assessed work, ensuring that they are set at an appropriate standard and accurately reflect the syllabus.
  2. Ensuring that internal marking is consistent, by seeing a selection of scripts.
  3. Contributing to the ratification of marks by the Subject Board of Examiners meeting; this will include, in exceptional circumstances, advising on any proposed scaling of marks at a cohort level.
  4. Approving the final marks for the module(s).
  5. Highlighting and encouraging good practice.
  6. Delivering an oral report to the Subject Board of Examiners meeting, and an annual written report to the Head of Academic Affairs.

The primary role of a programme external examiner is as a consultant. In this role, external examiners ensure that the degrees awarded by Queen’s are comparable in standard with those awarded in other UK or Irish universities, and are consistent with the requirements of the UK Quality Code for Higher Education. This work normally includes:

  1. Reviewing the degree programmes (the sequence and nature of the modules necessary to complete a degree), commenting on their alignment with the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications and any relevant Subject Benchmark Statements
  2. Contributing to progression and award decisions taken by the Programme Board of Examiners meeting.
  3. Approving the classifications or unclassified results for the cohort.
  4. Highlighting and encouraging good practice.
  5. Acting as a critical friend to the department.
  6. Delivering an oral report to the Programme Board of Examiners meeting, and an annual written report to the Head of Academic Affairs.

Schools will nominate a programme external examiner from the pool of subject external examiners, ensuring that the nominee has previous external examining experience. Each programme should have a single programme external examiner, although the total number of subject external examiners should be sufficient to cover the range of topics and number of students.

External examiners may serve as programme external examiner for more than one cognate programme, where this is appropriate and does not place an unreasonable burden on the external examiner.

For PGT programmes, the programme external examiner should also undertake the moderation of dissertations.

In instances where there is only one subject external examiner for a programme - for example, specialist PGT programmes - that individual should also be the programme external examiner.

Subject External Examiners or Programme External Examiners should not seek to, or be permitted to, change individual marks.

Note: It is the responsibility of each Head of School to ensure compliance with this Code of Practice. While operational responsibility may be delegated to School staff, the Head of School retains formal accountability for oversight of the School’s processes and procedures.