EXTERNAL EXAMINER ANNUAL REPORT FORM

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1 EXTERNAL EXAMINER ANNUAL REPORT FORM Key points to note when completing your annual report Please produce your report within four weeks of the main assessment board meeting. Please check the External Examiner website ( each year to ensure that you have the most up to date version of the report forms. Please word process your report on this form and your completed report to There is no need to send an additional hard copy through the post. You will receive an acknowledgement by so you know your report has reached us. Be specific in each section of the report about the units and programmes to which your comments relate. If your report relates to units and/or courses run by the University s collaborative partners, please comment on all of the partner locations in your report, stating clearly to which partner each comment relates. Your views will influence how we develop our courses and your feedback and input is essential. One word or one sentence responses throughout the report may not give the programme team enough information to enable them to enhance the programme. Please comment on each bullet point. Please do not name individuals, whether students or staff, as a copy of your report will be shared with our student representatives and the wider public. Your report will be copied to the Head of Department and Associate Dean (Academic) for the relevant Faculty in the first instance. It may also be considered more widely in the University as described above. The process for the consideration of your annual report is set out in the document External Examiners Regulations and Procedures, which is available from the website ( If your report relates to programmes offered through collaborative partnerships, your report will also be made available to the partner institution. To claim for your fees and expenses please complete a claim form and return to the Faculty Office by post. It is advisable to submit a claim form as soon as you have completed your annual report. Unit descriptions can be found at uws.port.ac.uk Access to Programme Specifications will be provided by the Department if this is needed for your role. External Examiner Annual Report Form Page 1 of 6

2 EXTERNAL EXAMINER ANNUAL REPORT FORM Section A: General Information Name Home Institution Professional/Institutional Affiliation Dr Jo Blanden University of Surrey Subject area for which you are the Subject External Examiner Economics and Finance Name of Collaborative Partner(s) (if applicable please include names of all Collaborative Partners) Award External Examiner? (please tick) If yes, what subject area is this for (if different to your Subject External Examiner role). Yes X No Level: (please tick all that apply) Undergraduate Postgraduate Year of tenure: (please tick) 1 st 2 nd 3 rd 4 th Final Date of Report 6 th July 2015 Academic Year Covered by Report 14/15 External Examiner Annual Report Form Page 2 of 6

3 Section B: Academic Standards of units Yes No 1. In your view are the standards set for the assessments appropriate for a qualification at this level in this subject? 2. In your view are the standards of student performance comparable with similar programmes or subjects in other UK institutions with which you are familiar? 3. Are you satisfied that the processes for assessment and examination are sound and fairly conducted? 4. Did you attend meeting(s) of the Unit Assessment Board this year? 5. Have you received assessment documentation for each unit in the cognate group showing the assessment outcomes and distribution of marks? 6. Did you receive the information/documentation necessary to enable you to carry out your role effectively? 7. Are you satisfied that the unit assessment process was fair and treated students equitably? 8. Are you satisfied that the unit assessment was conducted in line with the University policies and procedures? 9. Have you had the opportunity to meet with the course team to discuss assessment, standards and teaching in the subject? 10. Are you satisfied that previous comments made by you as External Examiner have received a response? If you have answered no to any of the above questions, please provide comments below. Yes No N/A Once again the experience of external examining using moodle improved, but there is room for it to be even better. I have asked in two previous years for a written examiner s report plus summary statistics to be produced. These were not available on moodle. On arrival at the UAB board I was shown an example of an Internal Assessor s Report. This would suit my needs perfectly and indeed on the front sheet it is suggested that these are made available to external examiners. It s a real shame that academic staff are doing this work and it s not being used. Most of the other material I needed was available, although once again I had to chase things up. I wondered once more if this is because the UAB is held too close to the end of the exam period (a problem at my own institution). Any time pressure is of course exacerbated by the need to scan the material into Moodle. It seems that there should certainly be a check list completed to ensure that everything is included, external examiners should be notified once a unit is ready, this would be much better than us spending our own time checking the material is available and chasing up what is not there. Again, the same as last year the general communication between members of the programme team and the external examiners could have been better. It feels like no one is really accountable for the information being made available in good time. It would be helpful if responsibility were clarified and if the responsible person (at my institution this would be the chair of the exam board) made contact with the external examiners before the meeting. The Course Leader was helpful in chasing up a number of his colleagues for me, but it s not clear that this is his role. External Examiner Annual Report Form Page 3 of 6

4 Section C: Academic Standards of Award (AWARD EXTERNAL EXAMINERS ONLY) 1. In your view are the standards set for the course(s) appropriate for a qualification at this level in this subject? 2. In your view are the standards of student performance comparable with similar programmes or subjects in other UK institutions with which you are familiar? 3. Did you attend meeting(s) of the Board of Examiners this year? 4. Have you seen the Programme Specification and any programme specific regulations for each course you are responsible for? 5. Have you received feedback on the units that make up the course from the Subject External Examiner? 6. Are you satisfied that the Board of Examiners was conducted in line with the University policies and procedures? Yes No Yes No N/A 7. Have you had the opportunity to meet with the course team to discuss assessment, standards and teaching in the subject? 8. Are you satisfied that previous comments made by you as Award External Examiner have received a response? If you have answered no to any of the above questions, please provide comments below. My main concerns are about the system of degree classification, which I believe is rather generous; certainly compared with my own institution. In addition, the regulations around compensation seem too relaxed, especially at Level 5. I will cover these points in more detail in my main report. I raised similar points in my report 2 years ago, when I was last award examiner. I don t recall receiving a response Section D: Good practice and innovation Please identify any other areas of good practice which you would wish to draw to the attention of the wider University. The ISU is a really well designed unit which staff work hard on and continuously improve. I also thought that the use of the poster assessment in Labour Economics was innovative. It was pleasing to hear that after initial resistance the students were proud of their achievements External Examiner Annual Report Form Page 4 of 6

5 Section E: Written Report Please complete your written report on this form. Could you please also give us your more detailed views and advice on the operation of assessment and the standard of the units (and courses for Award Examiners). We would be interested in any views you may have but the following is a list of areas you may wish to consider: If you have looked at work for any of our collaborative partners, please make it clear which partner your comments relate to.- Student Performance including strengths and weaknesses, quality of knowledge and skills demonstrated, quality and standards of assessments, examination scripts, projects, depth and breadth of subject addressed by students and comparison with students in previous year(s). Marking and Assessment including appropriateness of assessment in relation to unit outcomes, structure, organisation and design of assessments, consistency thoroughness and standards in marking, administration of assessment by internal markers, distribution of marks between units. Teaching, Learning and the Curriculum including the appropriateness of the learning outcomes of the units to their educational aims, the expectations of students and/or the requirements of professional bodies, any lessons to be drawn from the assessments in relation to the quality of the curriculum, syllabus or teaching methods and resources. High standards of assessment continue to be maintained in Economics and Finance at Portsmouth. There was a good spread of marks in most units which seemed appropriate to the standard of work. The assessments set were well designed to test the stated learning outcomes. There is evidence of good practice in terms of mark moderation. One issue of concern with a couple of the more technical units was the balance between the breadth and depth of the assessment. When students are assessed through coursework only or have a wide range of choice they may be tempted to cherry-pick topics and therefore neglect some of the learning outcomes. At my own institution we have addressed this by class tests or compulsory sections in the exams. This certainly forces students to engage with the whole unit, but it is sometimes to the detriment of students exploring their skills in depth (as they currently do in the coursework set for the Econometrics units). This trade-off between breadth and depth is not an easy one to resolve but it would be sensible to review units across the programmes to ensure that there is an appropriate mix of both types of assessment. This could be undertaken as part of a periodic review, for example. Final year units ensure that students have experience of making sustained arguments, working in groups and presenting their work. These are extremely important employability skills. It is additionally pleasing to see that these skills are developed through the programme in Economics Toolkit 1 and 2 and Economics Issues, all of which address aspects of the ISU so that when students reach this module they are well-prepared. Last year I raised concerns over the performance of students in Economics for Business; Economics for Accountancy and Understanding World Markets. Unfortunately there was little improvement in these despite the fact that regulations which should have encouraged students to work harder across all units. Discussions with the unit coordinator revealed that students who applied themselves did well, and it seems that lecturers are providing a lot of support. This led on to a wider conversation about addressing non-engagement across all units. Lecturers requested that the policy on this be clear from the outset and appropriately applied. The key thing seems to be to catch students early and offer support which will be followed up by clear sanctions as necessary. My attendance at the award board further enhanced concerns about the breadth of knowledge obtained by students on the programmes. The degree regulations enable some students to obtain a classification which flatters their performance. There are three potential approaches to obtaining the degree classification, and the one is applied which gives the student the highest degree classification. All three methods enable students to discard their worst 20 credits in each year, this means that a student can do extremely badly in a core component of the degree (generally 2 nd year Macro, Micro or Econometrics) and this have no influence onn their degree classification at all. Indeed, the fact that there is no lower bound on the mark that students can be compensated for means that they could get a zero in one of these modules. During the award board it became clear that many students were being awarded their degree classification based on the average of their best 100 credits in their final year, given that a degree requires 360 credits this seems a very small amount and led to some striking outcomes with more than student obtaining a first class degree with 40s in Macro and Micro and another student with a 2.1 despite failing Econometrics. External Examiner Annual Report Form Page 5 of 6

6 As I have noted here and previously I like the structure of the ISU, but good outcomes on this module combined with its 40 credit weighting is another factor leading to the high proportion of 1sts and 2.1 degrees. As many students are obtaining their degree classification based on just 100 credits, the ISU - with its substantial element of group work has a large weight in final grades. The compensation rules mean that students who fail one of Macro Micro or Econometrics in second year are permitted to continue with no penalty. As well as meaning they are not properly qualified as Economists; allowing them to do this means they are prepared for their final year. There are several ways of resolving this issue, either change the status of these units to Core meaning they cannot be compensated, or tighten up the compensation rules so that they must obtain a minimum mark for compensation to be applied. At my own institution students cannot be compensated unless make an attempt at the summer resit. These changes might mean that students raise their performance through resits, or it might provide them with a greater incentive not to fail in the first place. One addition aspect of concern was the application of the Extenuating Circumstances rules which appeared to lead to a student being able to resit all the coursework in a given unit (which took place throughout the year; this would be more appropriately dealt with my temporary withdrawal. Section F: Final overview (to be completed by examiners in their final year of office) Please comment on any significant changes in standards over your term of office and/or any other issues which you feel appropriate Section G: Concerns requiring a response The Head of Department, or a nominated representative, will acknowledge receipt of your concerns and will inform you of the outcomes. Relating to Moodle: External examiners should have access to internal assessor s reports as a matter of course. Responsibility for the uploading of information to moodle should be clarified and the responsible person should contact the external examiner in advance of the exam board. The University should reconsider its regulations for degree classification and compensation. The division should review whether the mix of assessments is sufficient to ensure that students are covering all the curriculum in their assessed work. External Examiner Annual Report Form Page 6 of 6

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