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As a controlled document, this document should not be saved locally and should always be accessed from the NSHCS website.
This version is the only External Reviewer Policy recognised by NSHCS. This supersedes any current or previous localised policies, which will no longer be applicable and cannot be relied upon.
The External Reviewer Policy is designed to ensure that programmes of education provided by the NSHCS are subject to appropriate independent scrutiny and, where applicable, meet the standards of education and training stipulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
A system of external review is an important element of the overall quality assurance and governance structure of the NSHCS and helps to ensure that the awards and qualifications conferred are appropriate by reference to national subject benchmark statements, the national qualifications framework, the QAA UK Quality Code for higher education and, where appropriate, the requirements of relevant Professional and Statutory bodies.
In applying this policy, NSHCS will have due regard for the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, promote equality of opportunity, and provide for good relations between people of diverse groups, in particular on the grounds of the following characteristics protected by the Equality Act (2010); age, disability, gender, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, and sexual orientation.
1 - Introduction
1.1. This policy is designed to ensure that programmes of education provided by the NSHCS are subject to appropriate independent scrutiny and, where applicable, meet the standards of education and training stipulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
1.2. This policy relates to External Reviewers as appointed in relation to assessments conducted by the NSHCS for its programmes of study. It does not relate to External Examiners that are appointed by partner Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) for academic programmes which may form an element of an overall programme of study owned by the NSHCS (e.g., an MSc Clinical Science programme is an element of the Scientist Training Programme, or STP).
1.3. This policy focuses on members of the NSHCS who are responsible for the recruitment, training, and ongoing monitoring of appointed External Reviewers, as well as to those appointed to the position of External Reviewer.
2 - Purpose
2.1. The primary purpose of this policy is to provide a quality assurance and governance structure in relation to external Reviewers for the NSHCS. This aims to ensure that the awards and qualifications conferred are appropriate by reference to national subject benchmark statements, the national qualifications framework, the UK Quality Code and, where appropriate, the requirements of relevant Professional and Statutory bodies.
3 - Scope
3.1. This policy focuses on members of the NSHCS who are responsible for the recruitment, training, and ongoing monitoring of appointed External Reviewers, as well as to those appointed to the position of External Reviewer.
3.2. The policy covers:
- External Reviewer contractual relationship
- External Reviewer duties
- recruitment and selection of External Reviewers
- the External Reviewer process
3.3. The policy does not cover:
- matters relating to NSHCS apprenticeship programmes – apprenticeship programmes are covered by a separate set of policies
4 - External Reviewer contractual relationship
4.1. The contractual relationship between the External Reviewer and the NSHCS covers the following aspects:
- requisite qualifications and expertise
- fees and expenses
- Term of Office
- recruitment and appointment (see section 5)
- conflicts of interest
- External Reviewer duties (see section 6)
4.2. External Reviewers must have appropriate qualifications and experience to undertake their duties as set out in section four. External Reviewers should be able to evidence the following:
- HCPC registration as a Clinical Scientist where required by the programme
- competence and experience within the field of Healthcare Science, to include academic and/or professional qualifications to at least the same level as the qualification being examined
- knowledge and understanding of the UK Higher Education sector, including national qualification frameworks and the UK Quality Code for Higher Education
- competence and experience in delivering professional education within the field of Clinical Science
- fluency in English to at least the level expected of the relevant programme, ordinarily this will be a minimum of IELTS level 7.0 overall or a recognised equivalent
- professional credibility and the ability to command the respect of professional and academic peers
4.3. External Reviewers will be paid a fee in accordance with their contractual arrangement.
4.4. External Reviewers may claim expenses incurred in the execution of their duties. In all cases, expenses claim must adhere to the existing expenses policy.
4.5. External Reviewers will ordinarily be engaged for a Term of Office of four years. In exceptional circumstances where necessary to ensure continuity of provision and at the sole discretion of the NSHCS, this term may be extended by an additional one year for a maximum total term of five years.
4.6. External Reviewers will be recruited following a competitive process, using standard recruitment processes. See section 5 for further detail.
4.7. External Reviewers must maintain a position of impartiality, being wholly independent from the NSHCS, its staff and its partners in HEIs and NHS Trusts. In considering potential conflicts of interest, the NSHCS will not appoint individuals from the following groups:
- NSHCS staff or trainees
- former NSHCS staff or trainees, unless a period of at least three years have passed since termination of employment or completion of studies
- members of staff, whether substantive or honorary, from any of the partner HEIs involved with NSHCS in the delivery of NSHCS programmes
- members of staff, whether substantive or honorary, from any of the partner NHS Trusts actively involved with NSHCS in the delivery of NSHCS programmes
- anyone with a personal, familial, or legal relationship with NSHCS staff or trainee
- anyone in a position to significantly influence or otherwise affect the future of an NSHCS trainee
4.8. The conflicts of interest outlined in 4.7 should not be considered exhaustive. External Reviewer applicants are asked to consider any potential conflict of interest and raise them with the NSHCS at the earliest opportunity.
4.9. Existing External Reviewers are required to raise any emerging matters which may be considered as a conflict of interest at the earliest opportunity.
4.10. The NSHCS may in exceptional circumstances appoint an individual where a conflict of interest has been identified. In such cases the appointment will be decided by the NSHCS senior management team and ratified by the Head of School.
5 - External Reviewers recruitment
5.1. External Reviewers will be recruited following a competitive process, using standard recruitment processes.
5.2. Appointed External Reviewers will be required to complete induction training, which the NSHCS will provide. This training will ordinarily be undertaken remotely/online.
5.3. The NSHCS may terminate the External Reviewer’s appointment at any time where the External Reviewer is deemed not to have fulfilled their duties in a proper manner, or where a conflict of interest arises which cannot be satisfactorily resolved.
5.4 External Reviewers may terminate their appointment at any time by providing the NSHCS with three months’ written notice. Wherever possible External Reviewers are requested to remain in post until the conclusion of the next Ratification Board.
5.5 The NSHCS recognises the evolving nature of the Healthcare Science workforce and therefore in exceptional circumstances may appoint an individual who does not meet some of the criteria outlined in paragraph 4.2. In such cases the appointment will be decided by the NSHCS senior management team and ratified by the Head of School.
6 - External Reviewer duties
6.1. The External Reviewer system forms a key element of the NSHCS’ quality assurance and governance structure. External Reviewers core duties cover the following:
- independent and objective scrutiny of assessment processes and standards with reference to recognised external benchmarks
- identification of areas of effective practice and/or areas for potential improvement
- completion of External Reviewer Reports
- participation in Exam Boards and Ratification Boards
6.2. In undertaking their duties, External Reviewers may request to view any relevant curriculum documentation and assessment materials and may make comment on any aspect of the programme.
6.3. External Reviewers will be encouraged to identify areas for improvement and/or areas of effective practice where these exist and can make comment upon these in their annual report.
6.4. The NSHCS may request External Reviewers to participate in additional quality enhancement activities, such as curriculum review or similar processes, for which an additional fee may be paid.
6.5. External Reviewers will be expected to produce an annual report based on their observations of the NSHCS assessment processes and the trainees’ performance.
6.6. External Reviewers will be expected to attend Ratification Boards and/or Exam Boards and present their observations of the NSHCS assessment processes and the trainee’s performance where required. Ratification Boards and Exam Boards will ordinarily be conducted remotely wherever possible.
7 - External Reviewer process
7.1. The External Reviewer process follows the NSHCS academic cycle. It can be broken down into five phases.
7.2. Phase One – Recruitment. The recruitment phase aims to ensure that External Reviewers are in post by the beginning of the relevant programme. This is ordinarily in September each year, however; this may vary in the case of some short programmes.
7.3. Phase Two – Induction. The induction phase aims to ensure that External Reviewers are appropriately trained to undertake their duties.
7.4. Induction training will include:
- how to claim fees and expenses
- overview of the curriculum and assessment strategy of the programme
- overview of programme specific policies
- key assessment dates for the programme
- how to complete the External Reviewer Report
- overview of the Exam Boards and Ratification Boards
- escalation of concerns process
7.5. The NSHCS will publish key dates for each programme at the beginning of the academic cycle and these dates will be made available to External Reviewers during their induction.
7.6. External Reviewers are encouraged to undertake induction training annually where possible, and not less than biennially.
7.7. Phase Three – Assessment. Programme final assessments typically begin in July each year, however; this may vary in the case of some short programmes.
7.8. There are also resit opportunities which means that programmes may have separate ‘rounds’ of assessment.
7.9. The assessment timetable will ordinarily be published at the beginning of the academic cycle, or with not less than twelve weeks’ notice. External Reviewers are expected to commit to attend all rounds of assessments for the programme where required, including the resit assessments.
7.10. Phase Four – External Reviewer Reports. External Reviewer Reports should be completed and submitted between the dates of the assessment and the Exam/Ratification Board. External Reviewers must ensure that they have allocated sufficient time in their schedules to complete their report in time for the Exam/Ratification Board.
7.11. Phase Five – Exam/Ratification Boards. Exam Boards and Ratification Boards will ordinarily occur following the completion of the relevant round of assessment for the programme.
7.12. External Reviewers must attend either the Exam Board or the Ratification Board for each round of assessment and are encouraged to attend both events.
7.13. The Exam and Ratification Board timetable will ordinarily be published at the beginning of the academic cycle, or with not less than twelve weeks’ notice.
8 - Equality impact assessment
8.1. The NSHCS and HEE give due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and promote equality of opportunity for all when making policy decisions and implementing this policy.
8.2. This policy has been developed with input from the NSHCS Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee and an accompanying Equality Impact Assessment has been produced.
9 - Monitoring compliance and effectiveness
9.1. The NSHCS is responsible for recording and monitoring information relating to the application of this Policy.
9.2. The NSHCS Policy and Procedures Committee is responsible for this policy and will review its compliance and effectiveness.
9.3. Anonymised data relating to the outcomes of this policy will be available to the NSHCS Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee and reviewed to ensure there are no underlying themes relating to equality that suggest any organisational bias.
9.4. This Policy may be periodically amended to ensure it remains effective and compliant with current legislation.
10 - Records management
10.1. All records must be compliant with HEE’s Records Management Policy.
10.2. Records should be treated as confidential and retained no longer than necessary in accordance with Data Protection legislation. All records must be maintained electronically. Please refer to HEE’s Records Management Policy for further information.