In the context of the Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015 (HES Framework), external referencing means a process through which a higher education provider compares an aspect of its operations with an external comparator(s) e.g. comparing the design of a course of study and/or student achievement of learning outcomes with that of a course from another provider.
The purposes of external referencing are varied, but typically include:
providing evidence of the quality and standing of a provider’s operations offering an external evidence base as context for the development of internal improvements, especially to student outcomes establishing or fostering collaborative improvement efforts across providers.
The practice of external referencing of assessment can provide a form of evidence for promotion. The main focus of external referencing in the HES Framework is on comparisons of courses or units of study and of student achievement to inform improvements. External referencing, also known as benchmarking in some literature, provides evidence of the state of a subject at a given time and results in feedback, usually in the form of a report. Reflection on feedback from a reviewer and demonstration of the subsequent improvement to a subject can be used as evidence of reflective teaching practice.
External referencing should encompass not only course design and methods of assessment, but also student achievement of learning outcomes, including through cohort analysis of student performance data. Peer review of assessment is a valuable means of validating that grades awarded reflect the level of student attainment, including through calibration of different markers’ grading (refer to Standard 5.3.4, HESF, Guidance notes: External Referencing (including Benchmarking)). The evidence produced through the process of benchmarking validates assessment in a subject.
Further information about Benchmarking at CSU is located in the Assessment, Moderation and Benchmarking website.
Guidance for Peer Review of Assessment through External Referencing is available in a CSU Thinkspace document.