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External Examiner 

External Examiners have overall responsibility for academic standards and monitor criteria for training and supervision.  They monitor all aspects of the assessment process.  They are required to indicate that the standard of the work meets the criteria for the grades and awards given and that these are consistent with similar courses across the country.  They need to check that these standards are in line with the requirements of QAA Subject Benchmark Statements, the QAA Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Degree-Awarding Bodies, and any national and/or international awarding bodies, as appropriate for the training programme.

UKCP HIP College’s expectation is that work will be at Master’s Level (Level 7 Framework for Higher Education Qualifications) BACP and other counselling organisations expectations for academic work varies between levels 4 and 6.

The External examiner will also review whether the content and process of courses within an organisation are up-to-date and consistent with current developments in the field nationally and internationally as appropriate.
 
The Functions of External Examiners

The functions of an EE can vary between organisations according to the specific needs of that organisation and whether external and/or national or international standards are required. In general these are the functions that an EE can be asked to perform:
 
1. The main purpose of the External Examiner is to be an outside assessor of trainees’ written work. They examine samples of trainees’ coursework and final examination papers/dissertations and benchmark the academic standards of the organisation. They assess whether the trainees’ work matches the level of the award for which they are applying. 

The external examiner's role is to evaluate whether the internal markers are awarding grades in a consistent and fair way, that they are clearly identifying the reasons for the marks awarded against the grade descriptors provided and that there are clear distinctions between grade bands and passes and defers. Their role is to assess the consistency of marking across a random sample of cohorts, rather than that of individual students, and across training organisations as necessary. They thus monitor the overall standards of work within an organisation. They examine a representative sample of students’ work and benchmark the academic standards. They will review these against the Graduate and Post graduate marking scale (as appropriate), the QAA Subject benchmark statements, the QAA Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Degree-Awarding Bodies and any other appropriate national/international awarding bodies as necessary, to ensure that the grades awarded are consistent and fair and there are clear distinctions between the grade bands. They evaluate the quality of the feedback comments, against whether the comments provide reasons for the marks awarded against the grade descriptors provided and advise accordingly. This provides consistency between the training organisations. 
 
2. External Examiners monitor assessment procedures and standards of academic work. They monitor the final examination process. This will include samples of written work, vivas and reviewing documentation as necessary.
 
3. The External Examiner assesses whether the academic level of the training is at Masters Level, for psychotherapy training programmes and to the appropriate level for counselling programmes.  They assess whether clear identification of what constitutes the appropriate academic level is in place across the training school. To assess whether this fair, equitable, robust and has the ability to stand up to scrutiny by external bodies. The trainees, trainers and external examiners all need to have access to information indicating the agreed standard against which the teaching, examining and trainees’ performance is being measured. This is to ensure reliability, validity and robustness of the assessment and accreditation process. The External Examiner will assess whether the systems and procedures in place are reliable, valid, robust and consistent across the school(s) as necessary.
 
4. In courses such as counselling and psychotherapy which have a practice component the External Examiner reviews the practice assessments as well as the academic assessments. They review the systems in place for monitoring placements, the systems for trainees mentoring and supervision in placement and meets with the trainees and their mentors or supervisors as necessary.  They comment on these in the same way as they do with the academic work.
 
5. External Examiners have overall responsibility for the ongoing monitoring of standards and criteria of training and supervision and for keeping in touch with the training standards and examinations committees of the organisations concerned with the specific training organisation.
 
6. They usually make one visit a year to the training programme, this may be followed by a brief report. Visits can be planned to coincide with organisational review/reaccreditation processes as needed.

7. EEs can be used during any academic or training appeals process if required. 
 
8. The EE usually write an annual report for the paying organisation. 

9. EEs can be a source of information and guidance for the organisation.

10. Above all EEs are there to help training organisations to adhere to the quality training and professional standards in counselling and psychotherapy. This in turn helps to maintain training standards and to ensure that well qualified counsellors and psychotherapists work with some of the most vulnerable people in society. 
 
Costs of an EE

How much it costs to have an EE will vary between organisations and institutions and the needs of those organisations and institutions. The fees can range from anything from £500 to £5000 per year.

Looking for an External Examiner?

Cathy McQuaid is an experienced external examiner, having worked for both Middlesex University and Queen Margaret University. She has also had experience of having a new psychotherapy course validated by a university, and so has seen what is required from 'both sides'. Her work with various training organisations has varied from basic 'overview without any site visit' to more thorough 'in-depth review with annual meeting.' As a researcher Cathy has also helped a number of training organisations to obtain clear research on their training programme and how it is perceived by the trainees.

Cathy has been involved in training standards for psychotherapy since 2005, as a result of this experience she has undertaken the review and monitoring of numerous training schools, been instrumental in developing monitoring systems and devising ways to provide consistency and transparency across schools both nationally and internationally.

If you'd like to have a chat with Cathy about your external examiner needs then either phone her on 07428 551163 or contact her via this contact form.