skip to content

Educational and Student Policy

 

On this page:

Useful external information:

 

Reporting requirements and timetables

Faculties and departments should routinely reflect upon their methods of assessment and performance of candidates in order to ascertain the effectiveness of their teaching and learning programmes. They are expected to consider and respond appropriately to reports of External Examiners, and may also have mechanisms to consider reports of other examiners and statistical data arising from the examinations of their students.

All External Examiners are required to write reports on the procedure, conduct and outcomes of the examination. There is no standard reporting template but a coversheet provides guidance on the report’s format and contents. Further information on the content of the report can be found here:

External Examiners should address their reports to the Vice-Chancellor, who passes them to Educational and Student Policy for collation and sending to Faculties or Departments. Reports are normally received in faculties and departments by either the Secretary of the Faculty Board or the Head of Department as appropriate. They are requested to formulate formal written responses to each External Examiner individually, and forward these to the General Board's Education Committee, along with any additional commentary they care to make. For examinations held in June, the responses are expected by the end of Michaelmas of the same calendar year, providing that the reports have been received in good time.

Faculties and departments should also outline whether they expect other examiners to produce reports and communicate to them the terms of the reports and to whom they should be addressed (e.g. Teaching Committee, Faculty Board).

All examiners' reports should be considered as unreserved business on Faculty Boards' and other faculty or departmental committees. If it is necessary, comments referring to individual students may need to be excised, in order to preserve their anonymity. It is good practice to include student comments in the response to the General Board. The comments of External Examiners can form useful feedback to students on the cohort's performance and provide pointers for improvement for future candidates (also see the section on feedback to students).

Payment of the External Examiners' fee and expenses is conditional on receipt of the report. Claim forms for payment can be found on the Student Registry website.

 

Responding to External Examiners' reports

When considering their responses to External Examiners, faculties and departments should ensure that interested parties are consulted, where relevant and appropriate. These may include the Chair of Examiners (and other examiners), teaching committees, course management committees and course organisers, student representatives and Directors of Studies Committees. Most responses are channelled through either the Faculty Board or an appropriate departmental committee.

Faculties and departments should make external examiners' reports available in full to students. This could be by publishing them on the Intranet, in the course handbook, by making them available at the Faculty Library, for instance or on request via a publicised route.

The responses should address each issue raised by the External Examiners and should be appropriate to the seriousness of the concern. This may include a commitment to ongoing consideration of issues, a report on action taken or action considered, and/or the identification of issues to be referred to other internal and external bodies to the faculty or department (e.g. General Board's Education Committee, Senior Tutors' Committee, Admissions Forum).

External Examiners should receive a formal written response to their reports from the appropriate faculty or department. Faculties and departments should use their own judgement as to the detail to be included in the response: in some cases, a note of thanks may be all that is needed. It is useful if External Examiners can receive a prompt initial response to their reports as well as further feedback after the full cycle of detailed consideration has been undertaken.

Copies of the responses should be sent to the General Board's Education Committee for their consideration. The Education Committee will determine whether the responses to External Examiners' reports are appropriate and will consider further any issues that are forthcoming, that are of wider import.

External Examiners who still have serious concerns about issues related to standards, and have exhausted all internal procedures, including a confidential report to the Vice-Chancellor, can invoke the QAA's Concerns Scheme - refer to Indicator 8 of the UK Quality Code for Higher Education (Chapter 7: External Examining)

 

Responding to other Examiners' reports

Faculties and departments should outline to examiners when to submit reports, and how they will then be considered. Responses to all reports are managed at a local level; there is no requirement for the General Board to receive either the reports or responses. Issues may arise, however, that may be referred to other bodies (e.g. General Board's Education Committee, Senior Tutors' Committee, Directors of Studies Committee).

As indicated in the section on feedback to students, candidates should receive feedback about their performance in examinations. At Cambridge, this is provided in various forms and by various means depending on the kind of examination and to which Part it belongs. Reports of examiners can contribute to this feedback. Where such an approach is adopted, examiners must be made aware if their comments are to be used routinely for feedback as well as for assessment, so that appropriate detail can be provided.

In examinations where there are several hundred candidates, it would not be reasonable for candidates to expect individual detailed written feedback on every part of their examination, but comments from examiners about the cohort's performance as a whole can provide information to help candidates improve their performance. This can be most clearly communicated to students if reports address issues on a question-by-question basis, an approach adopted by many Boards of Examiners.