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Durham University

Learning and Teaching Handbook

3.2: Externality in programme and module approval


1. Since 1994 the University has incorporated the views of individuals external to the University, in an advisory manner, in the development of new degree programmes, and modules, and in changes to existing degrees and modules. This external involvement helps to assure both the University, and those external to the University, of effectiveness of the University's quality management processes in assuring academic quality and standards.

2. Consequently, it is University policy that:

a. When proposing new programmes departments/schools should seek the views of an external subject specialist who is not a current or recent external examiner. This should be done in accordance with the requirements of the new programme approval process.

b. Departments/schools should seek the views of external examiners (or of alternative external experts if more appropriate) on proposed new modules, and on significant changes to existing modules. The University is very grateful to those external specialists who are willing to offer their views on these matters. How these comments are elicited and recorded is a matter for the department/school. However:

i. when submitting proposals for new modules or for significant changes to existing modules, departments/schools should include in the paperwork the comments of the relevant external. These should be their direct comments (in writing or by email);

ii. if it is helpful, the member of staff managing the module change/new module may give the external a copy of these guidance notes.


3. When seeking the views of an external subject specialist on new programme proposals, departments/schools are required to follow the procedures detailed in the new programme approval process documentation. There are a number of particular areas on which external subject specialists are asked to comment, but they may also comment on any aspect of the programme that appears relevant to them in the context of the subject area in general and their own expertise.

4. Departments/schools are required to forward details, as part of the documentation to be submitted with respect to a newmodule proposal or changes to existing modules and programmes of the nature and account taken of external views of the proposal. If it is not felt to be appropriate to seek such views in respect of changes to existing modules on a particular occasion the reasons should be stated.

5. For changes to an existing module, the external should be asked to comment on the elements which are being modified (or those for which the elements being modified have implications). Externals may also comment on any other aspects of the module which appear to them to be relevant in the context of the programme, the subject area in general and their own expertise.

6. The appropriate Faculty Education Committee is responsible for considering this information along with the other information submitted by the department/school. It may request further clarification on this aspect of the proposal as on any other.

7. If a proposal raises any issues of principle or concern, is the subject of contention or has wider University implications it will be referred to the appropriate Committee.


8. Payment to external subject specialists asked to comment on new programme proposals shall be made in accordance with the procedure for the approval of new programmes.

9. External examiners are advised, in their letter of appointment and in the Code of Practice on External Examining, that departments/school may approach them to act in an advisory manner in relation to the development of new modules or programmes or changes to these programmes and that a fee of £30 per annum is payable for this advice. Request for payment is made by the external examiners on their expenses claim form.