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Professional Development for External Examiners: Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs covering the professional development courses for external examiners offered by Advance HE.

Q: I don’t have any experience in external examining. Is the Professional Development Course (PDC) for external examiners suitable for me?
A: The PDC is for any academic colleagues with an interest in external examining. The course is suitable for academic colleagues who are external examiners (whether new or experienced) and for those who would like to take up a role as an external examiner.

Q: Why should I consider taking up the PDC and becoming an external examiner?
A: External examining helps you to develop your knowledge of current standards in other HE institutions which will inform your teaching and learning practice. A role as an external examiner may also support your application for promotion. Furthermore, attendance at this course is evidence of an interest in your continuing professional development and could form part of an application for fellowship of the HEA. See also the answer to the question on HEA fellowship below.

Q: Why has the PDC been developed?
A: Strengthened external examining is one way of ensuring against the erosion of academic standards. For more information on the Degree Standards project click here.

Q: What will the PDC cover?
A: The course will support your personal development in relation to acting as an external examiner. For more information about the learning outcomes and course content, please go to this page: https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/professional-development-course-external-examiners

Q: How is the remote course delivered?
A: The course was originally devised in a blended format (prior online activities and reading followed by a face-to-face workshop). Given the impact of the pandemic, it has been revised for remote delivery. The course content of the PDC is largely unchanged but it is now delivered by two Zoom meetings over two separate days, with the same prior online activities and reading and time to reflect between the two meetings. The remote workshops normally take place between 9:00 – 13:00. We also have an extended 6-week online course which largely involves asynchronous activities and four synchronous virtual classroom sessions.

Q: Can I sign up for the course if I cannot fully attend all the sessions?
A: The course is designed as a coherent whole aimed to enable participants to meet the learning outcomes. Consequently, participants should only register for a course when they are able to complete all of the programme. Recognition of completion of the course on the Advance HE’s list of those who have completed the external examiner professional development course will only be made based on this full engagement.

However, we recognise that on occasion unforeseen circumstances or transport arrangements necessitate participants arriving late or leaving early to the face to face sessions. Other unforeseen issues may arise which interrupt attendance at the remotely delivered course. Where this is unavoidable, the Advance HE/course provider will provide the participant with independent study material to replace the missed session. Only one session can be covered in this way. Submission of the completed supplementary material will enable the participant to register full attendance. Absence from more than one session will lead to non-completion of the course.

Q: Who are the course facilitators?
A: The course is delivered by two facilitators. These will be either members of the core Degree Standards project team or facilitators who have been trained to run the course.

Q: How much do I have to pay to attend the PDC?
A: It depends on the modes of delivery. You can find more details here.

Q: When is the next PDC course running?
A: Please find out more here.

Q: Is attending the PDC helpful for my HEA fellowship application?
A: Participants for this course are likely to be involved in external examining or may be leading external examining policies across a faculty, programme or team. If you are considering preparing an application for fellowship of the HEA, you should look at how your external examining experience relates to the dimensions of the Professional Standards Framework (PSF). For each level of fellowship, you must provide evidence of relevant experience and impact. For example, if you are applying for SFHEA you should show evidence of leadership (e.g. influencing and mentoring other colleagues’ practices). There are some follow-up activities in our External Examiners Participant Handbook, as well as online guidance (https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/project-section/professional-development-course-external-examiners-alignment-course-uk-professional) on Advance HE’s website on aligning your external examining experience to the PSF.

If you work for a UK University, your institution may offer opportunities to achieve HEA fellowship through an accredited programme or scheme. You should check your accredited scheme and be aware of their requirements. If your institution does not have an accredited scheme, you can apply directly to the HEA for fellowship; more information is available on our website: https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/fellowship

HEA fellows are expected to engage in appropriate continuing professional learning [https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/downloads/Code_Of_Practice.pdf] throughout their career, and attendance at Advance HE events offers an opportunity to do this.

Q: I’ve recently completed the Professional Development Course, what can I do next?
A: You can try to promote the need for calibration activities, where subject specialists come together to try to develop a shared understanding of academic standards within their community. These are developed collaboratively by Advance HE specialists and members of the subject community in response to demand for departments and professional bodies or subject associations. 

Also, Advance HE will be mounting webinars on an occasional basis to provide updates and to discuss key issues arising from external examining. Those who have completed the PDC will receive early notification of these.

Q: Can I use the materials deployed in the PDC for other purposes within my institution?
A: The Office for Students owns the Intellectual Property on the materials developed during the Degree Standards project and has licensed Advance HE to use these for three years. There are strict limitations on the use of the materials for purposes other than the delivery of the PDC and calibration activity. For further details, please contact us at External.Examining@advance-he.ac.uk

Q: How do I become a developer to deliver the PDC to colleagues in my institution?
A: Your institution needs to be a partner organisation for the external examiner provision and you would need to be supported by your institution to undertake the Develop the Developer programme.

Q: Can you help us to find an external examiner?
A: No. However, there a directory of all the staff who have completed the Professional Development Course for external examining, searchable by discipline in most cases, on our website: https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/degree-standards-project#directory. Also you can advertise on the External Examiners’ Jiscmail network https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A0=EXTERNAL-EXAMINERS

Q: How much do external examiners normally get paid?
A: Remuneration is determined by the employing provider according to nature and scale of the particular role. This can vary significantly.