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External examiners (taught courses) guidance

This page provides colleagues and external examiners with useful resources and information to assist the external examining process at Birkbeck.

Administration of the external examiner reports and fees is the responsibility of the Academic Standards and Quality team (ASQ), based in Registry Services.

Application and appointment

Appointment procedure

Right to work requirements

  • All potential employees are required to provide evidence of entitlement to work in the UK and it is the responsibility of the Sub-boards to collect this information.
  • External examiner identification (normally passports) should be photocopied at the sub-board meeting, signed/stamped by an appropriate colleague to confirm that they have seen the original document and sent to the Academic Standards and Quality team.
  • Please note that the ASQ team is not able to process any payment for fees or expenses unless valid right to work documentation is provided to the College.
  • All identification documentation will be copied and saved onto our electronic filing systems.  We are required by law to hold the information for two years following the end of the appointment. Visit gov.uk's information about acceptable types of identification.

Extension to appointments

  • External examiners are appointed to Birkbeck undergraduate and postgraduate sub-boards for a period of four academic years. Exceptionally, and subject to College Board approval, the College will consider a one-year extension to an external examiner's term.
  • An extension to appointment form (Word) should be completed by the Sub-board Chair and sent to  together with the rationale for the request.

Termination of contracts

  • Both parties reserve the right to terminate a contract given sufficient notice. External examiners have the right to resign at any time but are requested to do so in writing to the Academic Registrar and Chair of the relevant Board, giving three months' notice, to ensure alternative arrangements can be made in order to safeguard standards.
  • The College will terminate appointments only as a last resort. Possible reasons for termination include, but are not limited to:
    • Change to an external examiner's circumstances that creates a recognised conflict of interest (as listed in the College external examiners policy).
    • Relocation of an external examiner which makes attendance at the College impossible or subject to unreasonable expenses.
    • Failure to provide annual reports in time for consideration by the sub-board, School and College Board meetings.
    • Failure to attend relevant examination boards without sufficient notice and agreement by the University.
    • Unprofessional conduct.

Annual reports

All external examiners are required to submit one annual report per sub-board, which should be submitted following the final sub-board meeting. The annual fee will be paid to you once the Academic Standards and Quality team have received your report.

All external examiner reports are published in full and made available for staff and students on Moodle.

When to submit your annual report

  • Submission dates for annual reports vary according to the practices of the sub-board, but as a rule we would expect the annual report to be submitted within two weeks of the completion of your duties for that academic year.
  • Undergraduate degree reports should be sent by 1 August, Certificate of Higher Education reports by 1 October and postgraduate reports should be sent by 1 January. Please note that your sub-board may consider a mix of undergraduate/postgraduate and certificate programmes, in which case your report should reach us no later than one month following the final meeting of the sub-board.
  • The Academic Standards and Quality team will send an email before your annual report is due as a reminder of this responsibility.

Report templates

Content of annual report

  • Individual students should not be named in annual reports or reference made to students' work or presentations which may identify them. In addition, individual staff should not be named.
  • The primary duty of an external examiner is to report on:
    • the academic standards demonstrated by the students and, where possible, their performance in relation to students on comparable courses
    • the strengths and weaknesses of the students as a cohort
    • the quality of teaching, learning and assessment methods that may be indicated by student performance
    • the extent to which standards are appropriate for the award or award element under consideration
    • the design, structure and marking of assessments
    • the procedures for assessments and examinations
    • whether external examiners have sufficient access to the material needed to make the required judgements and whether they are encouraged to request additional information
    • the coherence of the policies and procedures relating to external examiners and whether they match the explicit roles they are asked to perform
    • the extent to which the external examiner's comments in his/her previous report have been considered and appropriately acted upon.

How to submit your annual report

  • Annual reports should be submitted electronically to the . The ASQ Administrator will forward reports to the sub-board chair for their records and will request a response if appropriate.
  • Birkbeck makes external examiners' annual reports available in full to staff and students. External examiners retain the right to submit any confidential report directly, and separately, to the Academic Registrar and should discuss any major concerns at the sub-board meeting prior to submitting their report.

How Birkbeck uses annual reports

  • Annual reports are addressed through a feedback process that aims to keep external examiners fully informed of action taken as a result of their reports. The feedback process is as follows:
    • On receipt, the Academic Standards and Quality Officer will forward the report to the relevant sub-board chair and publish the report in full for all students to access as per the UK Quality Code Advice and Guidance: External Expertise.
    • The Academic Standards and Quality team reads all external examiners' reports and raises questions pertaining to the issues raised by the external examiner for the attention of sub-boards.
    • Sub-board chairs are asked to write a response to their external examiner, advising of any action taken/to be taken (or reasons why action is not taken) on issues raised by the external examiner, which is scrutinised by the relevant College Board Chair. This response is then published online alongside the report.
    • The Academic Standards and Quality team writes an overview report of all external examiners' reports which is considered by the College's Education Committee.

Fees and expenses

Our procedures for fees and expenses are run independently of each other.

Fees

  • Details of your fee will be given in your letter of appointment, following approval of your nomination by the institution's College Board Chair. The standard annual fee for an external examiner is £250.
  • Receipt of your annual report and a copy of valid right-to-work documentation will trigger payment of your annual fee - you are not required to complete a claim form for payment of your fee.
  • On appointment, you will be provided with a BACS form which should be completed and sent to the  when submitting your Annual Report and/or Expense Claim Form. We cannot process your fee until we have received a BACS form. It is important that you advise us if these details change during the course of your term as external examiner. Changes to contact details, employment details or financial details should be advised to Academic Standards and Quality team as soon as possible.
  • Fees are paid on a monthly basis on or around the 27th of the month, provided that authorisation for payment is received from Academic Standards and Quality team by the University's Payroll Department by their deadline which is around the 5th of each month. You can find advice about payment of fees and income tax on the gov.uk website  or by contacting our Payroll Department.
  • Tax advice from HR Revenue and Customs for examiners:
    • Most fees paid by external examiners are liable to tax under Schedule E/as main employment income.
    • According to HMRC’s guidance special arrangements for deduction of tax apply to payments made in respect of the duties of examiners, markers, invigilators where such duties are in any way connected with degree examinations. Fee payments made to examiners for first degree examinations conducted by universities are chargeable for  tax as employment income and subject to PAYE in the normal way. Examiners who fall in this category are treated as 'employed'.
    • Payments made to external examiners engaged by universities for Master's degree and doctorates are generally treated as trade profits liability for National Insurance Contributions, but not chargeable for tax. Examiners in this category are treated as 'self-employed' if the whole work is performed under a contract less than 12 months.
    • Taxpayers should be advised to record the amount of the external examiners' fees in the 'additional information' section of the Self Assessment return. HM Revenue and Customs should calculate the Class 4 NICs due and show the amount as 'accepted' in box 18.2B. On no account should a credit be shown in box 3.98 of the self-employment pages, as this could result in an overcharge of income tax.

Expenses

  • Claims for expenses incurred in conducting your duties should follow these guidelines:
    • Expense claims must be submitted within three months. Expenses incurred more than three months prior to the date of a claim will not be reimbursed, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
    • Standard class rail/economy air travel only. We would also be grateful, if where possible, you could book tickets in advance of your travel to make the most of any deals that may be available.
    • Car allowance will be paid at the rate of 30p per mile.
    • Subsistence - total cost should not normally exceed £10 for a total period of less than 10 hours (including travel time), £30 for a total period over 10 hours and £30 for an overnight stay.
    • Necessary overnight bed and breakfast accommodation to a maximum of £120.
    • Expenses are normally capped at £250; please contact Registry if this is likely to be a problem.
  • Please note: Receipts are always required by our auditors. We regret that forms without receipts for all expenses claimed, with the exception of mileage, will be returned. Expenses will be paid gross, i.e. they will not be liable for Income Tax or National Insurance contributions.
  • To claim your expenses, you can download an expenses claim form.
  • Expenses forms with all accompanying receipts should be sent to the .

IT security access

Your sub-board contact at the College should arrange for you to have a network account at the College where necessary, which allows access to certain password protected areas to allow you to carry out your duties as external examiner.

Policies, regulations and procedures

Policies, regulations and procedures that external examiners are most likely to be involved with can be found at the links below:

View a full list of Registry rules and regulations.

Useful links, documents, and key dates

External sites that might be of interest to external examiners:

Birkbeck's key dates:

Visiting the College

External examiners will be required to visit the College for their sub-board meeting(s). The number of visits will vary depending on the procedure of the sub-board and how many sub-boards the external examiner is a member of.

Your designated sub-board contact (typically the secretary/clerk) within the department will be able to advise when you need to attend examinations boards or visit the College. Please note that the Academic Quality and Standards team do not have details of individual examination board dates.

Overnight accommodation can be arranged through the relevant academic Department, however such arrangements will not be made automatically. Please liaise with your sub-board contact (not the Academic Standards and Quality team) and give adequate notice of your requirements.

Visit our Find us page for detailed maps and directions to the College.

Who to contact

Contact the  for:

  • queries relating to your term of appointment/contract
  • range of duties
  • fees and expenses
  • changes of contact/employment/financial details.

Contact your sub-board chair or programme team for:

  • queries about academic issues
  • examination papers/boards
  • dates of meetings/visits.

View details of Schools and Departments within the College.

If you are unsure about who to contact, please contact a member of the ASQ Team who will be pleased to advise you.