The University of Hertfordshire is a large post-1992 institution and leading business-facing university, with a strong focus on graduate employability. The University seeks to encourage staff members to work beyond institutional silos, and training to aspiring external examiners has been offered over many years as part of the staff CPD offer, previously via a half-day session led by the Director of Academic Quality. Becoming an ‘early adopter institution’ of the Professional Development Course for external examiners (PDC) provided the chance to further develop the offer to Hertfordshire staff, and also those in consortia partner organisations, who are both existing and aspiring external examiners.
There has been a high level of demand for places on the PDC at Hertfordshire and a waiting list exists, reflecting not only the size of the institution but also the priority given to staff taking on external examining as part of ongoing career development. Up to July 2019, around 150 staff members have participated, over half (56%) being aspiring external examiners. There has been positive feedback from participants, and 83% agreed the course had given them ideas they would not otherwise have thought about. The feedback from participants who were starting out on external examining roles for the first time was particularly positive, and suggests this group find the provision especially beneficial in developing their thinking in advance of taking up an external examiner position. The PDC has reinforced assessment, calibration and moderation activities within different departments. The University expects to run the PDC twice yearly (subject to an annual review of demand for the training offered). Taking on the delivery of the PDC has been a significant undertaking in terms of engagement in the develop-the-developer process, however, Hertfordshire staff members involved in the institutional delivery felt well supported by AHE to deliver the course and resource implications have been absorbed because this work would be going on anyway.
In future, it is likely that the PDC will continue as an embedded part of the institutional continuing professional development offer to staff. Long-term sustainability is likely to depend on demand, and will rely on ongoing support from AHE in terms of maintaining the PDC platform, and refreshing the materials.