Health is cutting back on external co-examination

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In future, fewer exams will be assessed by external co-examiners at the Faculty of Health. The faculty management team has decided to cut back on external co-examination and hopes to save three million kroner.

2019.02.15 | Miriam Brems

According to Anna Bak Maigaard, head of studies administration at Health, other faculties and universities have already been through the process Health is embarking on. This is why the faculty has a higher rate of external co-examination at present.

FACTS: External co-examination at Health

  • Health has calculated how much external co-examination is used at the faculty and compared these figures with similar degree programmes at the other Danish universities.
  • The figures show that Health generally makes much greater use of external co-examination than the other universities.
  • For example, on the BSc programme in medicine, there is about twice as much external co-examination as in Aalborg, Odense or Copenhagen, according to the review.
  • At the same time, the faculty’s degree programmes considerably exceed the minimum requirement that one-third of a degree programmes’ ECTS credits must be assessed using external co-examiners.

The management team at the Faculty of Health has decided that the health sciences degree programmes have to cut back on external co-examination.

According to Charlotte Ringsted, the faculty’s vice-dean for education, this is because Health uses external co-examiners to a much higher degree than comparable degree programmes at other Danish universities.

“We spend a lot of money on it, and on administering it. The question is whether this is the best use of our resources. This is money that might be better spent on education or something else,“ Ringsted says.

External co-examination guarantees a comparable standard

While the lecturers on the boards of studies at Health regret that co-examination is being scaled back, they acknowledge the need to prioritise.

"All things being equal, we prefer to have external co-examination rather than internal assessment alone. It contributes to the harmonisation of the standard of quality of the medical degree programmes in Denmark, and in this way provides external quality assurance. You don’t have that when you remove external co-examination,” says Per Höllsberg, professor and chair of the Board of Studies for Medicine.

However, he stresses that while this is the position of the boards of studies in principle,

“at the same time, we acknowledge that there are financial considerations, and that there are situations in which you can’t have co-examination”.

The students agree with this position.

“What’s essential for us that there are two pairs of eyes on an exam. But of course, it’s better that it’s external co-examination rather than internal, because that ensures that a medical student in Aalborg is assessed on the basis of the same criteria as ain Aarhus,” says Nikolaj Bøgh, a medical student who is the vice-chair of the Board of Studies for Medicine.

The right prioritisation of resources?

Neither Höllsberg or Bøgh will comment on whether they think cutting back on external co-examination is the right prioritisation of resources, as it is is not yet clear what any resulting savings will be spent on.

“One might hope that the money saved will be spent on hiring more people at AU. Because after all, you’re just shifting the same work over to people who are already employed at AU,” says Bøgh.

The faculty management team estimates that they can save about three of the 5.7 million kroner currently spent on external co-examination in the course of an academic year. It is much too early to specify precisely what the savings will be spent on, Ringsted says,

not least because the faculty does not yet know exactly how much money they can save:

“Clearly, we’re subject to these two percent cutbacks, so if we can find some money somewhere where we don’t have to go in and start cutting into the quality of the teaching, it’s our duty to take a look at where we can find it. Half a loaf is better than none.”

Exactly what courses are no longer to be assessed by external co-examiners will be negotiated over the next couple years as the boards of studies adopt new academic regulations for the individual degree programmes.

 

This means the reduction will be phased in gradually as the new academic regulations come into force starting in 2020. 

FACTS: External co-examination at Health

  • Health has calculated how much external co-examination is used at the faculty and compared these figures with similar degree programmes at the other Danish universities.
  • The figures show that Health generally makes much greater use of external co-examination than the other universities.
  • For example, on the BSc programme in medicine, there is about twice as much external co-examination as in Aalborg, Odense or Copenhagen, according to the review.
  • At the same time, the faculty’s degree programmes considerably exceed the minimum requirement that one-third of a degree programmes’ ECTS credits must be assessed using external co-examiners.
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