The vocational component of Bar training is delivered by organisations that we authorise (called Authorised Education and Training Organisations or “AETOs”). They provide training and certain assessments in accordance with our Curriculum and Assessment Strategy. You can read more about the vocational component of Bar training here.

We appoint External Examiners who act on our behalf in monitoring the consistency of standards of assessments set and marked by AETOs. The system of External Examiners operates broadly in accordance with the QAA’s Quality Code (chapter B7).

What our External Examiners do

Our External Examiners are responsible for confirming whether or not:

  • the assessment process measures student achievement rigorously and fairly in line with the Curriculum and Assessment Strategy; and
  • the standards and the achievements of students are consistent between AETOs.

They do this by:

  • Approving the form and content of proposed summative assessments set by AETOs (ie examination papers, oral and other assessments) before implementation. In doing so, they ensure the types of assessment are appropriate for the subject, the students and whether the expected outcomes are in line with the Curriculum and Assessment Strategy.
  • Deciding whether assessment processes are carried out in accordance with the AETO’s assessment regulations and with our requirements, which must take precedence. In doing so, they assess whether the marking scheme/grading criteria have been properly and consistently applied, and internal marking is therefore of fair, reliable and of an appropriate standard. They do this by:
    • scrutinising the work completed by a representative sample of students;
    • reviewing samples of referred work to ensure the equivalence of standards of marking so that re-sits are not graded more leniently; and
    • moderating cohort marks awarded by internal examiners, requesting review or remarking of the whole cohort if there are concerns that the marking guidance has not been adhered to. (External Examiners moderate the scripts, they do not re-mark; they must not act as a third marker under any circumstances, and hence should not adjust individual grades but rather ensure that, where marking is too strict or too generous, the AETO reviews the whole cohort and makes adjustments accordingly).
  • Deciding whether procedures governing mitigating/extenuating circumstances, academic integrity/misconduct and borderline performances have been considered fairly and equitably applying institutional regulations. They do this by:
    • attending the meetings of the Assessment Boards on our behalf, ensuring that recommendations have been reached according to our requirements, which may include reviewing mitigating circumstances.
    • considering and having the final ruling in consultation with us on any case where a “Fatal Flaw” is committed, in line with the Curriculum and Assessment Strategy.

The External Examiners submit interim and annual reports to the AETO course leaders and to us on the effectiveness of the assessments and lessons to be drawn from them. They escalate to us any matters of serious concern arising from the assessments which might put at risk the standards of Bar training.

How we recruit and appoint External Examiners

Our External Examiners are recruited through open competition and enter into a consultancy agreement for services with us, which is renewed annually for up to 3 years. We conduct annual reviews of performance.

All our External Examiners are experts in their subject. They must:

  • have previous experience of teaching, learning and assessments and/or have professional expertise in the relevant subject area;
  • have current knowledge of the relevant subject area;
  • be familiar with the quality assurance practices established in UK Higher Education;
  • have an appropriate understanding of equality and discrimination law, and unconscious bias, in so far as it is relevant to the role;
  • be able to communicate clearly, effectively and persuasively;
  • demonstrate a high degree of professional integrity, impartiality and independence;
  • be able to listen, observe and draw objective conclusions;
  • be able to work as part of a team in a professional and collegiate manner;
  • be able to respond positively to developmental feedback and develop within the role.

They work in teams according to their area of expertise. Each team has a subject lead, who is an experienced External Examiner. The teams are:

1.       Advocacy

2.       Professional Ethics

3.       Opinion Writing and Legal Research

4.       Drafting

5.       Conference Skills

Eligibility criteria

We are required to keep our regulatory activities separate from any representative activities in relation to barristers and, specifically, we must remain independent of the Bar Council. We therefore require that External Examiners do not have any close relationship with the Bar Council, eg as a member of a Bar Council representative committee, working group or as an advisor to the Bar Council, at the same time as appointment as an External Examiner.  If a person wishes to be appointed as an External Examiner, they will be required to give up their membership of relevant bodies. 

We also ask candidates to declare any close association with any other body that represents or is strongly affiliated to the Bar, for example the Inns of Court or Specialist Bar Associations. They must also declare any conflict of interest with the AETOs delivering Bar training (ie they must say if they are or have recently been a member of staff at any AETOs or have any other material connection such as a child studying at an AETO). In accordance with the QAA’s Quality Code (chapter B7), External Examiners must not hold more than one other external examiner role in another Higher Education Institution.

We ask that all candidates notify us of:

  • any previous or pending supervisory action, complaint, investigation, disciplinary proceedings or disciplinary findings against them under any applicable disciplinary system;
  • any other conduct which calls into question their honesty, integrity, financial position or respect for the law. Such conduct includes, but is not limited to, both personal and professional activities and media comment (including social media comment), which may or may not have given rise to adverse publicity; and
  • any other matter, which if it was in the public domain, might risk diminishing public confidence in the regulator.

The associations and declarations listed above do not necessarily make a candidate ineligible to be appointed as an External Examiner.  We will consider any information provided on its individual facts and we may ask for more information before progressing an application further or we may explore with the candidate at interview.  However, we reserve the right to deem a candidate as ineligible if we consider the nature of any associations and/or declarations make the candidate unsuitable for selection.

All External Examiners are expected to adhere to the BSB’s policies, including health and safety, dignity at work, confidentiality and data security, declarations of interest (including dealing with conflicts of interest), gifts and hospitality, and equality and diversity.