External examining and academic standards: seeking greater consistency


Prof. Margaret Price & Dr. Geoff Stoakes, Higher Education Academy – Degree standards: A project to support external examiners to safeguard academic standards in disciplines.

This interactive session will introduce and report on an on-going HEFCE- funded project focused on external examining and safeguarding academic standards in disciplines. The involvement of the discipline of English in the project to date and plans to work with practicing and aspiring external examiners will be discussed with participants.

Research has raised concerns about inconsistency of academic standards both within disciplines and between institutions which need to be addressed if the UK is to retain its reputation for excellence in Higher Education. Up until now heavy reliance has been placed on explicit standards e.g. learning outcomes, level descriptors, criteria, which have proved insufficient to capture socially constructed academic standards. Variation in academic standards-in-use needs to be acknowledged and although the current external examiner system seeks to ensure consistency recent studies have shown that external examiners are not immune from the variation that exists in the wider sector. External examiners have differing perceptions of their role, who they have a duty to and expectations of academic standards. Among the possible approaches to seeking greater consistency in academic standards the most popular is a more effective, discipline-focused external examining system based on common agreement about the role of examiners and the academic standards used.

Within the session participants will be invited to take part in activities that examine the nature of academic standards, critique the expectations placed on external examiners and discuss ways to share academic standards within the discipline of English.


Friday 7th July, 11.00