External Examiners

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About the role

External members of Boards of Examiners are a requirement for almost all courses leading to an award in Cambridge. Their primary point of contact is likely to be the Chair of the Board of Examiners or Senior Examiner for the examination concerned.

External Examiners play an essential part in ensuring that formal procedures are adhered to, that the standards of awards in Cambridge are comparable to those elsewhere, and in suggesting improvements to the examination process.

They are employed principally to ensure that:

  • the standards set for an award are appropriate for the qualification;
  • the standards of student performance are comparable with similar programmes or subjects in other UK institutions with which they are familiar;
  • the processes for assessment, examination and the determination of awards were sound and fairly conducted.

They also have a role in ensuring comparability of assessment both between candidates and with other institutions, but they should not be considered the primary method for ensuring this comparability.

The General Board already issue guidance on the role of External Examiners both to the External Examiners themselves, and to faculties and departments. However, they recognise that the duties of External Examiners and procedures followed may vary between different disciplines and for degrees at different levels. Faculties or departments are encouraged to produce their own guidelines or guidance for External Examiners if these are not covered sufficiently by the General Board's guidance. In drawing up any guidelines, faculties and departments will want to ensure that the General Board's guidance is not contradicted and may want to review the advice contained in the UK Quality Coe for Higher Education on External Examining.

More information on procedures for dealing with External Examiners' reports is given in Examiners' Reports.

There is a separate Guide to External Examiners for MPhil programmes where an External is appointed to examine a cohort of students. It also provides information for Examiners (including External Examiners) for the PhD, MSc and MLitt Degrees. These are issued on appointment and are available below.

Degree Committees will wish to issue their own additional local guidance to supplement these.

University guidance and report coversheet

External guidance

Following a UK-wide consultation of Higher Education Institutions by UUK on external examining arrangements, the QAA published a new Quality Code for HE in December 2011 with new guidance.