Appointment of External Examiners - Taught Programmes

What is the appointment process?

  • Approach a possible external examiner to seek his/her agreement in principle.
  • Swansea University staff should fill out the relevant nomination form (depending on whether overseeing an undergraduate, taught postgraduate programme or research student) - see Useful Links
  • Staff must then submit the completed form with a current CV and copy of passport (and visa, if appropriate) to Academic Quality Services for initial scrutiny (your College/School may ask you to route all nominations through a central College/School Office first).
  • The Chair of the Progression and Award Board/PVC Academic will review the proposed nomination.
  • If approved, the external is sent a contract letter by Academic Quality Services confirming what they are overseeing and, if overseeing a taught programme, inviting him/her to an induction session. A copy of the acceptance letter/e-mail is sent to the College/School, until this acceptance is received by the College/School, no work can be sent to the External Examiner.
  • Send the external examiner the relevant information about the programme, including scrutiny of draft assessments/assessed work. 
  • External Examiners are invited to an annual induction event.
  • Colleges/Schools may not appoint an examiner or extend the contract/add additional programmes for existing external examiners, without using the approved appointment procedures.

See the sections Scrutiny of Nominations, Administrative Matters in appointing External Examiners and Criteria for Appointment in the Regulations (see Useful Links) for more details.

See the flowchart showing the nomination process in the Useful Links.

What are the criteria for appointment?

External Examiners must meet the criteria specified in the Regulations (see Useful Links) for taught programmes. When completing the nomination form, these criteria are appended as a useful checklist, but must also be completed.

There are restrictions on who can be an external examiner of taught programmes. A case can be made for accommodating special cases. See the sections Conflict of Interest and Administrative Matters in appointing External Examiners in the Regulations (see Useful Links).

External Examiners must also be eligible to work in the UK and must provide the relevant evidence to the University.

What if the nomination is rejected?

If the nomination is rejected, reasons will be given and you may submit further information and justification in support of the nomination.  The PVC Academic has the final decision. See the section Extensions to the Period of Appointment or Accommodating Special Cases in the Regulations (see Useful Links).

How do I know when the External Examiner's period of office is due to end?

Academic Quality Services staff contact the Head of College/School, usually in the January prior to the end of an External Examiner’s contract.  Please contact us at any time for details about your current External Examiners and their periods of office.

When do I need to appoint an External Examiner?

Every programme of study that leads to a Swansea University award must have an External Examiner.  The External Examiner oversees those modules and components that contribute to the award.  At undergraduate level, an external examiner is often not required until the second year of the programme (foundation degrees are however appointed to oversee the first year).  For taught postgraduate programmes, external examiners oversee all elements of the programme.

When new programmes are validated, programme proposers are reminded that they must allocate the programme to an existing/new Board of Studies and initiate the external examiner nomination process.

Extending Contracts and Appointing Special Cases

Extensions to the Period of Appointment or Accommodating Special Cases

If you wish to appoint or continue to appoint an External Examiner, who, in exceptional circumstances, contravenes the general criteria for appointment, the College/School must submit justification why the continued appointment is necessary. 

Submit your justification to Academic Quality Services, where staff will first scrutinise the request to examine the basis of the exceptional circumstance or whether the extension of time is permitted. Incomplete or ineligible requests for extension will be returned to the College/School for further information/re-nomination of an alternate. 

In appointing special cases, the term of office is typically only one year. 

Completed and valid requests for extension/special circumstances will be examined by the Chair of the Progression and Award Board (for extensions of office up to a fifth year) or the Chair of the Academic Regulations and Cases Board (for all other special cases) who have authority to approve or decline the continued period of appointment or exception to regulations. The decision of the Chair of the ARCB will be documented against this case.  Where nominations are not approved, the College/School may re-submit the nomination providing further details to justify the nomination.

Decisions on rejecting any nominations are retained by Academic Quality Services. College/School staff may appeal any rejected nomination through provision of enhanced information or evidence to justify the validity of the nomination.

What if the programme structure changes and/or student numbers increase?

External Examiners' contracts and fees for undergraduate programmes are made on the programme structure and enrolment numbers at the time of appointment.  Should these arrangements change significantly, contact Academic Quality Services with the relevant information and the contract may be amended.

Taught postgraduate examiners’ fees are calculated each year on numbers of students assessed.

£750 is the maximum fee payable per External Examiner for both undergraduate and taught postgraduate programmes; if fees reach this, we will contact the College/School and strongly recommend nominating additional examiners to share the load.

How to add an additional module/programme or extend the contract period

We can add additional modules/programmes, provided the numbers of students are not excessive and the number of concurrent examinerships is not above the "normally only two" rule as only two External Examiner appointments should be held at any one time. Contact the External Examiner to ask if they wish to take on further duties, then contact Academic Quality Services to request and extension form/additional modules form/additional programme form.

We can also extend the period of Office, see Extensions to the Period of Appointment or Accommodating Special Cases in the regulations, found in the Useful Links.

Appointment Criteria

Person Specification

The criteria for appointment match indicator 5 of Chapter B7 of the QAA Quality Code (see Useful Links). They are attached to the nomination form for your reference.

  1. Knowledge and understanding of UK sector agreed reference points for the maintenance of academic standards and assurance and enhancement of quality.
  2. Competence and experience in the fields covered by the programme of study, or parts thereof.
  3. Relevant academic and/or professional qualifications to at least the level of the qualification being externally examined, and/or extensive practitioner experience where appropriate.
  4. Competence and experience relating to designing and operating a variety of assessment tasks appropriate to the subject and operating assessment procedures.
  5. Sufficient standing, credibility and breadth of experience within the discipline to be able to command the respect of academic peers and, where appropriate, professional peers.
  6. Familiarity with the standard to be expected of students to achieve the award that is to be assessed.
  7. Fluency in English, and where programmes are delivered and assessed in languages other than English, fluency in the relevant language(s) (unless other secure arrangements are in place to ensure that external examiners are provided with the information to make their judgements).
  8. Meeting applicable criteria set by professional, statutory or regulatory bodies.
  9. Awareness of current developments in the design and delivery of relevant curricula.
  10. Competence and experience relating to the enhancement of the student learning experience.
  11. Nominations for External Examiner appointments should normally be from within the higher education system and possess appropriate levels of academic and, where appropriate, other professional expertise and experience in relation to the relevant subject area and assessment approaches.
  12. Retired staff can be considered if they provide sufficient evidence of continuing involvement in the academic area in question, and with current developments in higher education teaching, learning and assessment.
  13. Examiners from outside the higher education system may exceptionally be appointed as External Examiners provided that such persons possess the relevant expertise and experience to fulfil the requirements for appointment as External Examiners.  Such External Examiners shall not have sole responsibility for a programme of study.
  14. New External Examiners who have not held the position before at another institution, or are from outside the higher education system, should normally shadow the outgoing External Examiner during the final year of their tenure.

Terms of Office

External Examiners shall normally be appointed for a period of four academic years, with a possibility of re-appointment for a fifth year subject to the approval of the Chair of the Progression and Award Board.

  1. Other than in exceptional circumstances, an External Examiner shall not be reappointed before a lapse of at least five years since their last period of appointment.
  2. The number of External Examinerships held by persons being considered for nomination as External Examiners should not normally exceed two during the External Examiner’s period of appointment.

Conflicts of Interest

To avoid potential conflicts of interest, External Examiners should not be appointed if they are any of the following:

  1. A current employee or member of the Court of Swansea University or current employee or member of the governing body of any of Swansea University’s collaborative partners.
  2. Have a close professional, contractual or personal relationship with a member of staff or student involved with the programme of study.
  3. Anyone closely associated with the sponsorship of students on the programme.
  4. Anyone required to assess colleagues who are recruited as students to the programme of study.
  5. Anyone in a position to influence significantly the future of students on the programme of study.
  6. Anyone involved in current or recent substantive collaborative research activities with a member of staff closely involved in the delivery, management or assessment of the programme(s) of modules in question.
  7. Former members of staff or students shall not be invited to be nominated for appointment as an External Examiner before a lapse of at least five years from the date of departure, or sufficient time for students taught by that member of staff or associated with that student to have completed that programme of study, whichever is the longer.
  8. The making of reciprocal arrangements for external examining with staff teaching similar programmes of study at other institutions is not permissible.
  9. An External Examiner shall not normally be succeeded by another from the same home department and institution.
  10. Only one External Examiner may be appointed from the same department of the same institution.

Right to work in the UK

In order to comply with UK Immigration Law, all External Examiners must be eligible to work in the UK and must provide the relevant evidence to do so.

The University will conduct a Right to Work check to verify that every individual working for the University is eligible to work in the UK, prior to them commencing any work with the University.  This requirement includes External Examiners and is in accordance with UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI), a department of the UK Government Home Office.  The External Examiner will be asked to present or email a copy of their identification to Academic Quality Services, usually a passport (and visa, if relevant), before they commence work with the University.  The original documentation will need to be presented on the External Examiner's first visit to the University premises.

Please refer to the following link for further information:

Period of Office

How long are External Examiners appointed for?

Four academic years is the normal appointment period, with a fifth extension year being possible. In some special cases, the term would be for one year only.

For undergraduate programmes, the period of office is usually the academic year, October 1st to September 30th. For taught postgraduate programmes, the ending period would be to December 31st of the relevant calendar year.

See also How to appoint an additional module/programme or extend contract period (see above) for further details.

There must normally be at least five years since their last period of appointment before an External Examiner can be reappointed.

How many external examinerships can be held?

An External Examiner is only permitted to hold two external examinerships concurrently. See the sections Terms of Office, Period of Appointment and Extension to the Period of Appointment or Accommodating Special Cases in the Regulations (see Useful Links).

Research External Examiners are appointed to examine specific students.  There are no restrictions on the number of research students that an External Examiner can oversee for the taught element.  For the thesis element there is a restriction on the number of theses. 

Number and Type of External Examiners

Types of External Examiner

The University has two types of External Examiners:

  1. Subject External Examiner – who oversees the standards of the discipline and in almost all cases oversees a specific named programme. In some cases, examiners are appointed to oversee stand-alone modules which typically do not contribute to a specific named award. The subject External Examiners represent the majority of External Examiners.
  2. Chief External Examiner – who is appointed in situations where a team of External Examiners has been appointed to consider a collection of related programmes/subject areas for multidisciplinary programmes and/or stand-alone modules. A Chief External Examiner may also be appointed if the team of External Examiners is made up of a significant number of non-academic examiners and/or those with limited experience as External Examiners.

    The Chief External Examiner is appointed in specific areas of the University’s provision, namely in the Swansea University Medical School and in some areas of the College of Human and Health Sciences.

    Chief External Examiners for the MB BCh programme in the Swansea University Medical School will be appointed to cover Phase 1 (Year 1 and Year 2) and Phase 2 (Year 3 and Year 4).

    See also the Role and Responsibilities of the External Examiners.

How Many Examiners do I need to appoint?

There is no set number, but you need to be aware of the total student FTEs enrolled on the programme, the subject diversity of the programme and any professional body requirements as these will influence how many examiners you may need to appoint.

How many examiners do I need for a Joint/Multidisciplinary Programme?

You will need both subject-based External Examiners, along with a Chief External Examiner who will oversee the standards across each of the disciplines.  The Chief may be one of the subject examiners or someone else appointed to oversee the programme.

Terminating Contracts

By the University

Contracts with External Examiners can be terminated before their term of office has expired.  Reasons for termination might include:

  • the External Examiner failing to fulfil their duties and responsibilities (including specifically non-submission of an annual report per academic year, non attendance at an Examining/Award Board without valid reasons, lack of involvement with the assessment process); or
  • following the discontinuation or non recruitment to the relevant programme of study.

The Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic) is authorised to issue letters of premature termination upon the recommendation of the Chair of the Progression and Award Board.

By the External Examiner

If the circumstances of an External Examiner change and/or a conflict of interest arises during their term of office and he/she wishes to resign, a formal letter of resignation should be directed to the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic).  A three month period of notice will be required.

When the contract ends mid-way through an academic year

Should the termination of contract arise during the academic year, or an examiner wishes to temporarily suspend their involvement due to personal reasons, a temporary appointment will be made to cover the rest of the duties during that academic year until a permanent nomination is obtained, where necessary.

See section Termination of Contract in the Regulations (see Useful Links) for more details.