Special Report: AI and Higher Education

Exploring generative AI and the implications for universities

For months University World News has published a special series on ‘AI and Higher Education’. The focus was on how universities are engaging with ChatGPT and other generative artificial intelligence tools. The articles from academics and journalists around the world explored developments in AI that have implications for universities, students and staff, and teaching, learning and research. Read the special report below.
Top Stories
In the age of post-plagiarism, universities need to prepare students to use artificial intelligence apps to enhance and elevate their creative outputs as a normal part of their everyday lives, with AI being a tool that writes with them, not for them.
PHOTO While students delight in writing essays using artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT, hoping to save time and effort, experts in linguistics warn that widespread use of ChatGPT around the world could reduce linguistic as well as stylistic diversity.
PHOTO Despite a lot of local data, there is a dearth of accessible African datasets and challenges around local languages. However, broadband connectivity, 5G and the internet of things are spreading and will make data collection for powerful AI analytics in education in Africa possible.
AI, Ethics and Humanity
Instead of just striving to eliminate biases in datasets, researchers should ask why biases are in datasets in the first place and what power and politico-economic factors cause them. Rather than searching for a good algorithm, we should ask what a good society is and about technology’s place in it.
PHOTO Questions about using artificial intelligence go further than cheating on exams or generating text for scientific articles. They are about university values, in particular, the integrity of academic work, but they are also about exploring the evolving relationship between humans and machines.
PHOTO Universities need to open up debates about the ethical challenges that new technologies throw up. Fontys University in the Netherlands introduced a Moral Design Game – an innovation that enables students to talk to each other about ethical issues around new technologies, from multiple points of view.
PHOTO One answer to pedagogical problems posed by ChatGPT and other AI word manipulation systems requires restoring genuine, real-world interactions for younger generations. Reality and experience may be dismissed in this digital age, but they remain the best place to get an education.
PHOTO In his 2016 book titled The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Klaus Schwab observed that as the workplace becomes more digital and high tech, and AI and robots become crucial, there is an urgent need to still feel the human touch grounded in meaningful close relationships and social connections between people.
Artificial intelligence is likely to have an impact on the recognition of qualifications as much as on any other area of education. Laws, regulation and practice will need to be reviewed, and understanding and practice developed in the higher education community. The approach that will evolve should recognise the use of AI and seek to counter its abuse.
PHOTO Artificial intelligence will change the type of jobs available, and the skills those jobs require. It could call into doubt the credibility of credentialing, from which universities draw their power. It is time for universities to adapt and not just embrace the AI revolution but lead it.
PHOTO The use of artificial intelligence in higher education presents both challenges and opportunities to academics. We need to navigate this new landscape thoughtfully and responsibly so that AI tools like ChatGPT are used to facilitate learning and scholarship rather than undermine it.
Artificial intelligence projects like ChatGPT can be understood as directly colonial, because they depend on treating the whole of humanity’s cultural production to date as theirs to freely use. But universities can become important sites of resistance to this next colonial phase of knowledge production.
China and the United States are engaged in a heated race to lead in artificial intelligence research. China has been pouring billions into AI research in its goal to become a global leader in AI by 2030. America is also stepping up funding while seeking to limit China’s gains by restricting exports of sensitive technologies.
PHOTO Listening to people at the ASU+GST summit in the United States, Ethan Mollick, an associate professor in the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, wondered if new AI breakthroughs had already catapulted humanity into a post-singularity era. “There’s a fundamental shift that’s already happened,” he said.
PHOTO The recent emergence from the United States of OpenAI’s artificial intelligence-assisted ChatGPT writing tool, and the accompanying worldwide buzz over its ability to respond almost like a human to questions, has upended China’s declared bid to emerge as a global AI innovation power during this decade, according to experts.
PHOTO Across universities in Nordic countries, there is widespread recognition that the launch of ChatGPT represents just the first step in the development of a technology that will continue to evolve and bring further challenges that the sector will have no option but to embrace.
PHOTO A survey of 125 university librarians across the United States has discovered wildly differing opinions on the use and morality of AI tools such as ChatGPT in higher education. Only 13% of surveyed academic libraries offer AI products to researchers, and 24% are considering this.
Social scientists are key to developing artificial intelligence tools and to understanding the implications of their introduction. “This shapes how AI evolves,” says leading physicist and economist Professor Sergei Guriev, provost of French research university Sciences Po. “The most important questions are about philosophy and ethics.”
PHOTO “Calm your inner Luddite, hold on to your inner sceptic,” is one of the messages for educators contemplating ChatGPT and other large language models, from Dr Roze Phillips, a futurist who straddles the worlds of work and academia. “Trying to outsmart AI is not a viable strategy.”
PHOTO As debate rages over the possibilities and risks of artificial intelligence in higher education, evaluators at a symposium agreed that AI is not going anywhere. Their choice is to work actively with AI – or have it enter the field of evaluation in an unfettered way, with potentially harmful consequences.
AI and Equity
A new report shows how algorithms can bias searches of academic literature, favouring authors who are white, Western and male, and that many researchers are unaware of how widespread this is. Academics need to learn what they can do about it.
PHOTO International students may not have the same understanding of digital learning as domestic students. Problems they face can be tackled by universities taking a more thoughtful and inclusive approach, focusing on providing equitable digital experiences. This requires a clear commitment from leadership and a dedicated digital team.
PHOTO Worldwide, 22% of artificial intelligence professionals are women, but only 8% of films about AI feature a woman as an AI scientist. Only by understanding and mapping the problem of gendered representations can we shift the landscape of who does and does not ‘count’ as an AI scientist.
Research and Publishing
The advent of AI like ChatGPT could significantly boost the production of scholarly papers. Academics need to consider why they publish, and harness the new technology to reduce time spent on routine tasks and contribute towards a more creatively fulfilling life of the mind.
Responses in Regions
“AI will not replace people – but the person using AI might replace you,” says Pieter Geldenhuys, futurist and director of the Institute for Technology, Strategy and Innovation. He has teamed up with North-West University in South Africa to run a course to upskill people in new artificial intelligence technology.
Sponsored Article
PHOTO Around the globe, university students with big ideas for making their communities and the world better and helping solve some of today’s biggest problems – pollution, hunger, waste, and more – are applying for Wege Prize, an international design competition with a prize pool of US$65,000. Promoted by Ferris State University.
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PHOTO Around the globe, university students with big ideas for making their communities and the world better and helping solve some of today’s biggest problems – pollution, hunger, waste, and more – are applying for Wege Prize, an international design competition with a prize pool of US$65,000. Promoted by Ferris State University.
Sponsored Article
PHOTO Stellenbosch University’s vision to be a systemically sustainable institution addressing continental and global sustainable development challenges is beginning to bear fruit. Not only is it educating future leaders, policy-makers and professionals in this space, but it is also finding solutions through research, training and development. Promoted by Stellenbosch University.
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PHOTO ABET, the global accreditor of science, computing, engineering and technology programmes, is supporting Pride Month and prioritising equality, diversity and inclusion. It believes collaboration between a diverse pool of talent is a vital contributor to finding the best solutions to the world’s problems. Promoted by ABET.
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PHOTO As the world accelerates towards a sustainable future, a new study by United Arab Emirates University researchers shows that Emirati consumers in the UAE are willing to shift to alternative protein sources to promote food security and sustainability. Promoted by the United Arab Emirates University.