A week in the life of an external examiner: June 9-16 2013

Last week was a momentous one which took me to four cities as part of external examining duties, and I felt it should be recorded!

On Sunday 9th June I travelled from Keele to Nottingham in order to be in place for an early start on Monday at Nottingham Trent University (NTU), where I am  external examiner for their Forensic Science course. I then spent Monday looking at students’ work – exam papers, projects, dissertations and coursework. It’s an interesting job, and as well as checking academic standards, it can give me ideas for what we could do at my own institution, and alternative ways of tackling similar problems.

Having finished at NTU, I travelled to London late Monday afternoon, to stay there overnight before heading to Canterbury on Tuesday morning for my second stint of external examining, at the University of Kent. As it happened, my duties there were different from at NTU, and I spent most of the time looking at students on degree class borderlines. I stayed overnight in Canterbury, and on Wednesday morning we had the formal exam board (which was challenging, but that’s another story), and finished there by lunchtime. Then it was time for a dash back to Keele, which I reached shortly after 4:00 pm. I had a meeting with one of my PhD students, and then had to prepare (and pack) for my final trip of the week, to Amsterdam, for a PhD viva.

Thursday morning saw me attending Keele’s final examination board, at which all finals results were looked at, and borderline cases considered. As soon as it had finished, I headed to Crewe by bus for the train to Manchester Airport. We had a late afternoon flight to Amsterdam, but since we had booked an airport hotel (definitely recommended if you are arriving late), getting to the hotel was simple.

On Friday morning it was time to take the train from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to the Amsterdam Science Park, which took about 30 minutes. I arrived there at 10:30, and the viva started at 11:00. Having read the thesis, I didn’t anticipate any problems, and the viva went well. So everything was wrapped up by 1:30 pm, and I travelled back to Schiphol. We spent the rest of the weekend in Amsterdam, which I hope to post about separately.

All in all, it was quite a week, and it has taken some time to recover. But it was an efficient way to get my various commitments done, and I will consider doing something like that next year if the dates work out.

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