The external examiner system in higher education is, for a variety of reasons, widely believed to be under strain: as a result, the role of the external examiner has, in recent years, come under particular scrutiny. Reports a survey of current and desired practice regarding external examining in higher education courses in art and design. Suggests that, in these disciplines, it is generally desired that external examiners act in an auditing role rather than become involved in details of assessment practice. The manifested desire for external examiners to take the role of “course consultant” introduces a tension which may not be capable of resolution under existing expectations of external examining. Claims that there is a need to reconstrue the role of the external examiner within a broader framework of quality assurance processes if maximum benefit is to be gained from an external perspective.
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