Q. Who appoints Examiners and Assessors?
The General Board formally appoints Examiners and Assessors for all undergraduate examinations leading to an award of the University. Examiners for the University's postgraduate research awards are also appointed by the General Board but Assessors are appointed by the relevant Degree Committee.
General Board appointments
The list of examinations for which the General Board makes appointments includes:
- all Preliminary, Qualifying and Honours (Tripos) examinations;
- all examinations leading to the award of Master of Philosophy;
- examinations leading to the award of the following Masters awards: Business Administration, Engineering, Law, Corporate Law, Education, and Finance;
- examinations leading to the award of the following Bachelors awards: Medicine and Surgery, Theology for Ministry, and Veterinary Medicine;
- examinations for all Diplomas except those in International Law and Legal Studies; and those offered under the regulations for awards for non-members of the University;
- examinations for all Certificates except for the Certificate of Post Graduate Study (CPGS).
Examiners and Assessors formally appointed by the General Board are nominated by the body specified in the regulations for each examination, found in Statutes and Ordinances. Typically, this is the Faculty Board, Syndicate, or Degree Committee. For each examination, a Chair of Examiners or a Senior Examiner, and one or more Examiners and Assessors should be nominated.
All Examiners and Assessors, including External Examiners, are appointed annually. External Examiners may be re-appointed for up to two additional consecutive years: other Examiners and Assessors may be re-appointed at the discretion of the nominating body.
Degree Committee appointments
Individual Degree Committees make appointments for examinations leading to the award of MSt degrees. Degree Committees also appoint Examiners on an individual basis for the award of a number of research degrees, Diplomas and Certificates (although others are awarded by the Degree Committee themselves or a specially-appointed committee).
General responsibilities of those nominating Examiners and Assessors to the General Board
Nominating bodies should make every effort to ensure that all nominations are reasonably certain before presenting them to the General Board. They should consider leaves of absence, including sabbaticals, well in advance and seek confirmation from nominees before submitting names to the General Board. The Chair of Examiners should also be informed of the nominations and appointments.
The Faculty Board/Degree Committee and the Chair of Examiners/Senior Examiner are responsible for ensuring that Examiners, External Examiners and Assessors are sent appropriate local information and guidelines, including any approved classing criteria or marking schemes, the relevant examinations data retention policies and any other pertinent information.
Appropriate induction and/or training should be provided for new Examiners and Assessors. The Centre for Personal and Professional Development offers some courses in this area which may help faculties and departments.
Q. Timetable of appointments and nominations
General Board appointments
The General Board approve nomination forms for the appointment of Examiners and Assessors. Separate forms are used for the nomination of External Examiners. The forms include all of the information required to ensure that the correct appointment is made and that sufficient contact details are recorded, and can be downloaded here:
Nominations are submitted through a Designated Officer for each Faculty or Department. The name of your Designated Officer should be known by the Faculty or Departmental Secretary.
Nominations should be made according to the following timetable:
- Chair of Examiners: not later than the first day of the Full Michaelmas Term in the calendar year preceding the examination
- Senior Examiners (where applicable): not later than the first day of the Full Michaelmas Term in the calendar year preceding the examination
- Examiners and External Examiners: not later than the division of the Michaelmas Term of the calendar year preceding the examination
- Assessors: not later than four weeks before the beginning of the examination
If it is clear that nominations will not be received by Educational and Student Policy on time, you should inform the Office of the likely timescale that the Examiners and Assessors will be nominated; in this eventuality, late appointments are better than wrong appointments.
Degree Committee nominations and appointments
For MPhil examinations that contain written papers, Examiners should be nominated and Assessors appointed by the end of the Michaelmas Term of the academical year of the examination. For other examinations, Degree Committees should agree with Educational and Student Policy timetables for the appointment of Examiners.
The Degree Committee should report the nomination of all Examiners and appointment of all Assessors to Educational and Student Policy. It is particularly important that the names of Senior Examiners and External Examiners are provided.
In the case of MSt degrees, the Degree Committee should also communicate the names of Examiners and Assessors to the Secretary of the Strategic Committee for the Institute of Continuing Education.
Q. Who can be nominated as an Examiner or Assessor?
Examiner or Assessor?
Examiners have more responsibilities than Assessors. For example, Examiners set the papers for the examinations, they attend Examination Board meetings and they sign off the class lists. Examiners also share responsibility for the decisions of the Examination Board.
Assessors, on the other hand, are usually only appointed to contribute to the marking of papers. They can be appointed later in the academical year (up to four weeks before the Examination) and they do not have to attend the Examination Board's meetings (but can be called to meetings by Examiners to account for their marks). It might be appropriate to appoint an assessor to mark a dissertation as well as specific papers.
Some Triposes will have special regulations setting out the responsibilities of Examiners and Assessors (see Statutes and Ordinances).
Nomination of Examiners
Examiners are appointed by the General Board for one year at a time. There is no restriction on the number of consecutive years that an individual may be appointed for a particular examination.
Wherever possible, Boards of Examiners should include at least one Examiner who does not contribute to the teaching programmes associated with the examination.
The following people can be nominated as Examiners:
- established University teaching officers;
- unestablished University teaching officers;
- College teaching officers;
- research assistants;
- research associates;
- senior research associates.
Persons registered as undergraduate or graduate students at this or any other institution may not be nominated as Examiners - Special Ordinance A (vii). 5.
Nomination of Assessors
Assessors are also appointed by the General Board for one year at a time. There is no restriction on the number of consecutive years that an individual may be appointed for a particular examination.
All categories of persons eligible for appointment as an Examiner are also eligible for appointment as an Assessor. Under special circumstances, graduate students of the University, or non-University experts who are appropriately trained, may act as Assessors: a written application by the nominating body must be made to the General Board in these cases.
If an examination makes use of a borrowed paper from another examination, the Examiners for the borrowed paper are appointed as Assessors on the 'home' examination.
Q. Who can be nominated as an External Examiner?
There may be some variability in the roles of External Examiners between different disciplines, however the General Board's expectations are set out in its guidance on the arrangements for External Examiners. For further information, see the sections on roles and duties in:
External Examiners are appointed by the General Board for one year at a time, but may be nominated for re-appointment for up to two additional years. If you wish to nominate an External for a fourth consecutive year, please include a case with the nomination form.
Once they have completed their tenure, they may not be appointed until a period of five years has elapsed. Exceptions to this rule may be allowed by the General Board if the nominating body can demonstrate that there are special circumstances.
Nominating bodies should pay close attention to the General Board's guidance on the arrangements for External Examiners when considering the appointment or re-appointment of External Examiners. The guidance provides advice on the number of nominations to make and the criteria for appointment and re-appointment.
The most important factors to consider include:
- that those appointed should normally be persons of seniority and must certainly have appropriate experience and/or knowledge and the ability to command respect in the subject. In certain circumstances, it is appropriate that persons from outside the higher education system, e.g. from industry or the professions, be invited to act;
- that, when considering re-appointment, the External Examiner has acted appropriately in the past and has submitted the required report(s) to the Vice-Chancellor in good time;
- that the External Examiner can provide an independent and critical view of the examinations, by avoiding potential conflicts of interest (either professional or personal), through ensuring that the proposed External Examiner:
- does not hold an office in the University, or a Fellowship or some office or post in a College;
- does not teach any course of instruction which forms part of the teaching programme for the examination concerned;
- is not a former member of staff of the University, unless more than five years have passed since their departure;
- is not employed at an institution where members of Cambridge institutions in the same discipline are acting in similar capacities, (wherever possible);
- is not employed at the same institution as his or her immediate predecessors (where possible).
Due care should be taken by the Faculty or Department concerned that adequate induction for the External Examiner has been undertaken by each person nominated.
Q. United Kingdom Border Agency and Right to Work rules
Guidance on checks required on External Examiners by the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA)
If an Examiner has been appointed from an overseas institution, the Department/Faculty should make sure that the appropriate checks and visas have been obtained. For more information see: http://www.hr.admin.cam.ac.uk/hr-services/immigration
Right to work
HMRC requirements mean that the University has an obligation to ensure that all examiners of undergraduate level courses have the right to work in the UK. Faculties and Departments are therefore asked to request that all Examiners for undergraduate courses bring proof of their right to work when they arrive for the Examiners' meeting, and that a photocopy is made of the evidence provided and that it is countersigned to confirm that it is a 'true copy'. This evidence should be retained for as long as someone is working with you and for audit purposes for at least 7 years.
A list of documents that are acceptable as proof of right to work can be found at: http://www.jobs.cam.ac.uk/right/
Under HMRC requirements, all undergraduate examiners and assessors will have to provide proof of right to work, regardless of their nationality, but employees of the University are exempt. Please note that CTOs and JRFs are not employees of the University.
These checks need to be done only once - even for External Examiners - unless the examiner has a limited period visa, in which case their right to work will need to be checked again when the visa runs out.
Examiners and assessors on graduate level degrees fall under the 'self-employed' category, which does not require right to work checks.