3. Nomination of examiners and assessors

3.1 Summary of relevant regulations

Supervisory bodies must have standing orders governing the number of examiners, period of office, and appointment of chair, on all University examinations for which they are responsible, and for the composition and constitution of any nominating committee(s) operating on their behalf [Examination Regulations, 2014, Regulations for the Conduct of University Examinations, Part 4, cl. 4.1, p. 15, ll. 15-25].

Nomination of examiners and assessors is undertaken by the supervisory bodies according to their standing orders. Boards may appoint nominating committees and delegate power to them but need not do so other than in the case of an examination for a course which is the responsibility of more than one board or other body, where the responsibility must be delegated to a jointly-appointed nominating committee [1] [ibid., Part 4, cll.4.4-4.5,p. 15, ll. 33-39].

Nominating committees must have at least three members and their composition must be reported annually to the Proctors and the Head of Examinations and Assessment [ibid., Part 4, cll. 4.5-4.6, p. 15, l. 37 – p.16. l. 2].

Nominations must be submitted to the Pro-VC (Education) and the Proctors [ibid., Part 4, cll. 4.9-4.13, p. 16, ll. 24-43] in advance of the commencement of the examination.

Sufficient examiners must be appointed for each candidate (other than in Mods or Prelims) to be examined by no fewer than two examiners, [ibid., Part 2, cl. 2.2, p. 14, ll.24-26]and in undergraduate examinations (other than in specified cases) no more than two members of the same college may examine in the same examination [ibid., Part 3, cll. 3.2-3.4, p.15, ll. 3-10].

The conventions to be used by the examiners in any examination shall be approved annually by the supervisory body responsible for the course and the examination [ibid., Part 8, cl. 8.1, p. 20, ll. 22-26] subject to the right of a board of examiners to make minor adjustments to the conventions during any particular examination, without reference to the responsible body, if there are exceptional circumstances which so require. In cases of doubt or difficulty, the examiners should consult the Proctors. Nothing in this provision shall affect the authority of the examiners in the making of academic judgements on the performance of each candidate. [ibid., Part 16, cl. 16.2, p. 35, ll. 7-16]

The relevant supervisory body should nominate for approval by the Pro-VC (Education) and the Proctors a chair of examiners who shall have responsibility for the proper conduct of the business of the board of examiners, including taking proper account of relevant University guidance [ibid., Part 6, p. 18, l. 41 - p. 19, l. 22].

[1] In a small number of subjects, Education Committee has approved a dispensation to allow the continuation of pre-existing arrangements.

3.2 Composition of board of examiners

Apart from a small number of specialist examinations, the number of examiners and assessors appointed is a matter for the supervisory body according to their standing orders. However, the University requires large final honour schools to have more than one external to cover the full breadth of the examination; it also requires that in joint schools each panel of examiners, drawn from the parent schools, should include at least one external.

Wherever possible, individuals who have been course directors or their equivalent in the year of the examination concerned, should not be appointed as chairs of boards of examiners.

3.3 Role of supervisory bodies in nominations

Supervisory bodies are asked to keep under review the mechanisms for their part in the nomination and appointment of examiners, including the chair and external examiner(s), and for ensuring the competence and avoidance of conflicts of interest in relation to all examiners, including external examiners (see especially Annex J: UK-wide criteria for appointing external examiners).

In exercising their overall responsibility for the membership, powers, procedures and accountability of examiners, supervisory bodies should take care to ensure that boards of examiners are aware of:

  • requirements relating to declarations of personal interest;
  • the minimum numbers of internal and external examiners who must be present for decisions to be valid;
  • the keeping of appropriate records of examiners’ meetings and the reasons for any specific decisions in relation to individual cases.

3.4 Nomination of chair and secretary

For each examination, a chair of examiners must be nominated by the course supervisory body in the Trinity Term preceding the academic year of the examination and approved by the Pro-VC (Education) and the Proctors.

Minutes should be kept of examiners’ meetings.  Information contained in the minutes about individual candidates should be restricted to a note of their final marks and how authorised information about medical or other special circumstances was taken into account.  The examiners should identify one of their number, or an academic administrator, to act as Secretary, who will record who was present at meetings and what decisions were taken.  Other roles (e.g. of communication with candidates) may be delegated to the Secretary by the chair.

Chairs should be aware that they are required to be in Oxford during the examinations for which they are responsible.  It will assist the Proctors if chairs ensure, in addition, that an appropriate person is available to respond during investigation of examination complaints over the Long Vacation:  this may be the chair, or a deputy (notified to the Proctors) if the chair will be away from Oxford for a long period.  It is recommended that a timetable for the board of examiners be drawn up as early as possible so that the examiners can plan to be in Oxford for critical meetings.

3.5 Appointment of assessors

Assessors are appointed to complement the examiners and to assist in the setting and marking of papers. Before a list of assessors is submitted, the chair is encouraged to consult the Senior Nominator for the subject. The Nominators keep a tally of how frequently individuals have acted as examiner and assessor and may recommend that someone should not act in a particular examination.

Where assessors are to be nominated who are not members of a faculty or a department (see Examination Regulations, 2014, Regulations for the Conduct of University Examinations, Part 3, cl. 3.1, p. 14, ll. 43-45) the nomination(s) must include sufficient information to allow the Pro-VC (Education) and the Proctors (ibid., Part 7, cl. 7.2(2), p. 19, ll. 31-32) to assess their suitability for the examining task involved (i.e. qualifications, experience of teaching and examining, technical expertise). When nominating a postgraduate student to act as an assessor, the Nominating Committee must state how the criteria set out in Annex G: Appointment of postgraduate students as assessors in taught-course examinations will be met. The appointment of any assessor must be approved by the Pro-VC (Education) and the Proctors and shall not be effective until approval is given. (ibid., Part 7, cl. 7.4, p. 20, ll. 1-3) Particular importance is attached to the timely nomination of assessors.

Approval for the appointment of assessors should be sought before they act in this capacity (a form for this purpose is available on WebLearn in the Examiner Appointments area. Notes for its completion are supplied in Annex K: Appointment of assessors – notes. The form should be signed by the chair and sent to the Examinations and Assessments Section for processing and forwarding for the approval of the Pro-VC (Education) and Proctors. Before seeking approval, chairs should check that these persons are qualified to act under the provisions of Examination Regulations, 2014, Regulations for the Conduct of University Examinations, Part 7 pp. 19-20. The prime criterion is that assessors be members of a faculty or department of the University. Annex G: Appointment of postgraduate students as assessors in taught-course examinations provides information on the policy of this type of appointment.

This procedure applies also to the appointment of any supplementary assessors required at a later stage (e.g. after candidates’ essay titles have been approved). Appointments must always be approved before any person acts in this capacity. Chairs should ensure that assessors are aware of the level of remuneration (the current fee schedule is available on the Examiner Appointments area on WebLearn).