5. Meetings of examiners

5.1. Initial meeting of examiners

The external examiners may wish to attend an initial meeting of examiners, but it is not essential for them to be present. At this meeting the examiners:

(i) should be reminded of the importance of the confidentiality of the examination process;

(ii) are made aware of the marking scheme and examining conventions previously approved by the divisional or faculty board (including penalties for late submission).  Chairs should email a pdf copy of the examining conventions to the Proctors (proctors.office@proctors.ox.ac.uk) (see 7.3 below);

(iii) agree on the form of marks sheets to be used and arrange for their production (see also 12.5 below for policy on the use of comment sheets);

(iv) check that submission dates, and content of the syllabus to be examined are set out consistently in the Examination Regulations, Faculty or Departmental Handbooks, and any materials made available on the web. Any serious inconsistencies or problems in these areas should be reported to the Proctors;

(v) inform themselves and the Proctors of any changes in syllabuses or student handbooks that override the precedents offered by past examination papers (also see (xii) below);

(vi) identify papers shared with other examinations and establish responsibilities for setting as well as ensuring clarity in marking conventions to be applied;

(vii) identify chairs for joint schools, and responsibilities for setting of shared papers;

(viii) arrange for the appointment of assessors to complete the range of expertise available to (or reduce the burdens upon) the examiners;

(ix) allocate individual duties for setting papers and producing camera-ready copy in accordance with dates determined by the examiners;

(x) determine whether any papers have special requirements (materials to be provided or permitted; reading time) or common content with papers in other schools;

(xi) consider, if appropriate, the compilation of a list of acceptable calculators;

(xii) consider what information should be communicated to candidates and subject tutors ahead of the examination (see 6.2 below and consider (iv) and (v) above);

(xiii) consider the most effective role for the external examiner(s) and provide them with appropriate course information in addition to the briefing statement approved by the division/faculty and provided on appointment (see section 4 above);

(xiv) establish a schedule for the examination process, covering meetings to scrutinise question papers, proof-read camera-ready copy, enter marks, examine candidates viva voce, if necessary, determine the date by which the chair will finalise the timetable for publication; and the date of the final meeting to adjudicate on the merits of candidates.  Examination boards for nine-month graduate taught programmes should also provisionally schedule an additional meeting after the final meeting to deal with any late submissions (e.g. approved as a result of disability or ill health).  This meeting may be held by teleconference if necessary. A copy of this schedule should be sent to the Head of Examinations and Assessments.

5.2. Attendance at meetings of boards

After its initial planning meeting the board may follow up with further meetings to address particular aspects of the examination for which it is responsible. At the chair’s discretion it may be sufficient for different sub-sets of the examiners to be present on such occasions and in such circumstances the Proctors‘ permission is not needed for individuals to be absent from meetings of this kind. However at any meeting when the marks of one or more candidates are being finalised, whether at a final end-of-year meeting or at interim meetings held by boards (e.g. for PGT Courses) which intend to release marks progressively, all members of the board must be present - unless the Proctors’ prior permission has been granted for individual non-attendees (or there is an alternative prior standing agreement).

In order to obtain permission for non-attendance individual examiners must discuss the matter with their chair of examiners and all requests to the Proctors must be made by the chair of examiners. Permission for non-attendance will only be granted in exceptional cases (such as ill health or acute personal difficulty) and not for academic activities such as attendance at conferences.

In cases where individual examiners are excused from attending a marks-approval meeting, the Proctors will give instructions about procedures for signing the Results List.

In exceptional cases, the Proctors may be willing to allow Examiners to participate in a meeting by video conference or tele conference. Chairs should discuss any such proposals with the Junior Proctor as early as possible in the process. Any approval will include directions about the practical arrangements for signature of Results Lists.

In no circumstances will the Proctors regard a board as being quorate unless at least two members are present in person.

In cases where candidates are granted extensions to submission deadlines which fall after the board’s scheduled final meeting (but within the same academic year) the Proctors will generally look sympathetically on requests from chairs for results to be considered by confidential correspondence.

Under  a change to regulations introduced in October 2013, where a candidate’s results are incomplete when the results for the main cohort are submitted to the Academic Records Office (ARO) and the reason for this is an approved alternative examination arrangement such as an extension to a submission deadline, chairs will no longer need to seek a supplementary results list authority from the Pro-VC (Education) and the Proctors, but can submit the candidate’s results straight to the ARO after they have been signed off by the examiners.

5.3. Examiners' reports

The University regards the reports made on behalf of all the examiners as an important element of its quality assurance arrangements. The examiners must prepare a report on the examination, Annex E: Form of report on examinations provides a template, which should be sent to the Secretary of the appropriate divisional or faculty board.  The points on which examiners are particularly asked to comment in their reports are:

  • any changes which the examination process might have suggested in relation to the existing content of the course;
  • any changes which the examination process might have suggested in relation to the existing methods of assessment;
  • any need to review specific options;
  • the overall standard of performance in the examination, including any trends in results or in relation to particular areas of the curriculum;
  • any possible changes in examination conventions, procedures or regulations suggested by the examiners’ experience of the examination process.

Precedent serves as a guide to any other sort of commentary provided.  Examiners are reminded not to make comments that might enable individual students to be identified in their reports. To assist examiners, a Tableau report is available presenting number of students by classification (please contact sdma@admin.ox.ac.uk).

The external examiner’s report should be sent to the Vice-Chancellor, c/o Catherine Whalley, Head of Education Planning & Quality Review, Education Policy Support, with a copy to the relevant division.

5.4. Reviews of examination reports and examination procedures

Divisions and other supervisory bodies must ensure that they have appropriate mechanisms in place to:

  • give full and serious consideration to the comments and recommendations of external examiners (and any comments/questions from Education Committee);
  • ensure that there is appropriate student representation on the committees reviewing external examiners' reports;
  • take consequential action and record it formally;
  • inform the external examiner(s) in a considered and timely fashion where and why action has or has not been taken in response to their comments/recommendations;
  • report back to Education Committee where specific concerns/questions have been raised;
  • make all reports (other than those where individuals might be identifiable) available to students via appropriate mechanisms;
  • (where necessary) put in place revised arrangements for the examination round in the succeeding year.

Such mechanisms should secure the speedy consideration of examiners’ reports in order to provide comment on any significant concerns for the relevant division and through the division to Education Committee, and to ensure feedback to external examiners on a reasonable timescale. Education Committee is particularly concerned that each year a small number of individual external examiners’ reports indicate that they have not received such feedback on their previous year's suggestions. Therefore, divisions should take steps to ensure that all external examiners receive feedback. The requirement for feedback to external examiners should not be taken, however, to imply a change in the nature of the University’s relationship to external examiners. That is, the University remains responsible for the standard of its awards, and is under no compulsion to implement particular recommendations made by external examiners, although it is clear that the responsible body must always be in a position to explain why it did or did not adopt a particular proposal.

Responsible faculty/department academic bodies should use the annual reports by examiners (including the comments from external examiners), with their detailed breakdown of the assessment process, to monitor those areas that examiners have been asked to comment on as given in 5.3 above.

Divisions should ensure that they have effective mechanisms in place for monitoring the class percentage figures for schools under their aegis, and should take appropriate steps to investigate and, if appropriate, seek to effect changes in those for any school which seems to be out of line with others in the division as a whole. Education Committee monitors the class percentage figures by Final Honour Schools each year.

5.5. Claims for expenses

Claims for examiners’ fees, travelling expenses and subsistence allowances for external examiners will be dealt with by the Student Administration Examiners and Submissions team (2‑76391).  It is possible to reclaim the cost of taxis for transporting scripts to and from Ewert House and the Schools.  The exam fee claims form is provided by the Schools, and chairs are responsible for ensuring that it is completed and returned to the Schools.  An up-to-date schedule of fees and expenses payable is available on WebLearn.

Note:  No claims can be made for:

  • entering marks into books or on to a computer;
  • preparation of Results Sheets by examiners or faculties;
  • attendance at meetings, or meals, for internal examiners;
  • invigilating candidates over lunchtimes.