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The Degree Standards Project

The Degree Standards project , which is led by Advance HE and managed by the Office for Students on behalf of England and the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland and Wales, is exploring, across those three nations, sector-owned processes focusing on professional development for external examiners.

The purpose of this five-year project is to:

  • Design, pilot and deliver different approaches to the professional development of external examiners.
  • Propose evidence-based and cost-effective longer-term approaches to the professional development of external examiners operating across the higher education system in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
  • Explore approaches to the calibration of standards, presenting recommendations for future work in this area.

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What has been achieved in 2019-20:

Degree Standards achievements
  • Eleven additional institutions have adopted the Professional Development Course (PDC) during this academic year, so that to date, 48 higher education providers have adopted the PDC.
Degree Standards achievements
  • In total, 25 courses were delivered this academic year, with 796 participants completing the PDC (four regional, three online, six assisted, one observed and 11 institutional facilitated).
Degree Standards achievements
  • The blended PDC has been delivered regionally in Belfast, Birmingham, London and York. 
  • A new model for subject- based integrated PDCs has been devised and it is to be offered in 2020-21.
Degree Standards achievements
  • Three online PDCs have been run involving large cohorts of participants, with a total of 344 completers this academic year. 
Degree Standards achievements
  • In response to the implications of the pandemic, the Develop the Developer (DtD) programme has been reviewed and adapted for remote delivery in 2020-21, which has also involved the development of a new model of the PDC that can be run remotely. 

Find out more about the development work from this project briefing.

The project benefits significantly from advice from Advance HE’s Degree Standards Project Board and the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment.

The names and contact details of those colleagues who have completed the Professional Development Course (and consented to have their data published) can be found in External Examiners Directory.

External Examiners Directory


Develop the Developer Programme

Find out more about how to adopt the project as our institutional partner.


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Professional Development Course

Find out more about professional development courses for external examiners.


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Calibration of academic standards

Find out about different models being explored for the development and delivery of subject-based calibration of academic standards.

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Related events

Degree Standards Conference 2021: Improving assessment literacy and maintaining academic standards

Date: 18 June 2021
Location: Virtual

New for 2021, this conference explored two ways to ensure the maintenance of academic standards – firstly, improving assessment literacy amongst staff, students and other members of the HE community and secondly, enhancing the reliability of academic and professional judgements. 

This conference explored the outcomes and insights that have emerged from the OfS-funded Degree Standards Project.

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Degree Standards Conference 2021 - New for 2020-21