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Case study: Supporting aspiring external examiners – Queen's University of Belfast

Queen's University of Belfast is a Russell Group institution with 19,000 students at undergraduate level. The Director of Academic and Student Affairs provided strategic approval for the university to be involved in the Degree Standards project, with members of the Centre for Educational Development leading the professional development process.

It is hoped that involvement in the project will help to increase the number of staff taking up external examiner posts. In the past the relative geographical isolation of the university has had a negative impact on the number of staff holding external examiner appointments, which is one of the key ways for academic staff to share practice outside of the institutional context. The professional development course appears to be having a positive impact: staff members report that attendance on the professional development course has enabled them to develop a good understanding of the external examiner role and has provided them with material to draw upon during the application process.

Involvement in the Degree Standards project has facilitated collaboration between Academic Affairs (who are responsible for external examining) and the Educational Development Centre and a joint approach to supporting external examiners is starting to emerge. Potential future developments include the creation of a central system for recording of external examiner appointments and the development of an institutional approach to supporting calibration type activities.  The timing of the project has provided some challenges for the university due to competing priorities, and capacity was reduced due to long term staff absence. The institution is keen to ensure that a second facilitator progresses through the developer process to enable successful delivery of future courses.