In its consultation document on the future of the national quality assurance system, the Quality Assurance Agency makes the constitutional position of external examiners transparent. For this it deserves congratulations.
External examiners have been aware for some time that their reports have served a dual function. They are contracted by institutions to comment on standards and related matters but, through external quality scrutiny, their reports also serve the purposes of the state. This latter function is uncontracted and, when methods of external quality scrutiny were established, it seems to have been taken for granted that external examiners would not object to becoming agents of the state.
The QAA's proposal to establish a cadre of registered external examiners who would report to institutions and to the agency brings fully into the open the duality of the external examiner's role. Those who consider whether to undertake the role of REE will be under no illusions regarding the role-tension to which they will be subject, for the tension is much more obvious than has hitherto been the case.
Mantz Yorke. Professor in school of education and community studies. Liverpool John Moores University