Anthony Gale says external examining is badly paid (Letters, THES , September 20), but so is much of what academics do.
Research I conducted with Phil Harris on external examining for law schools indicates that most examiners work on the basis that: someone has to do it; it can be rewarding and spreads good practice; and it gives an insight into how other law schools teach and assess students. If examiners' reports are "skimpy", as Gale warns, it is not because of the pay. Differing curricula and complex assessment regimes mean that examiners can make reliable statements about benchmarks and comparative standards across institutions only if they have the training and the time.
Only a minority of universities run induction sessions for external examiners. We found that pay was the greatest cause of dissatisfaction, but also the time pressure of summer examination board deadlines.
University of Brighton