Universities want to ensure staff and students are ‘AI-literate’

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In a joint statement published today, the 24 Vice Chancellors of the Russell Group of universities have pledged their commitment to ensuring the ethical and responsible use of generative AI and new technologies like ChatGPT.

Universities are increasingly recognising the importance of equipping their students and staff with AI literacy skills to leverage the opportunities presented by technological advancements in teaching and learning. 

Sheila Flavell CBE, Chief Operating Officer at FDM Group, commented: “With businesses crying out for new hires equipped with the latest tech skills and analytics capabilities, providing students with a fully rounded education and qualifications in this area is critical for building a dynamic workforce, fit for the future ahead.”

Developed in collaboration with AI and educational experts, the new principles acknowledge both the risks and opportunities associated with generative AI. The statement emphasises the role of Russell Group universities in cultivating AI leaders who can navigate an AI-enabled world effectively and responsibly.

The five principles outlined in the joint statement are as follows:

  1. AI Literacy Support: Universities will support students and staff in developing AI literacy skills, enabling them to comprehend and engage with AI effectively.
  2. Faculty Training: Staff members will be equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to assist students in utilising generative AI tools appropriately and effectively within their learning experiences.
  3. Ethical Integration: Universities will adapt their teaching and assessment methods to incorporate the ethical use of generative AI, ensuring equal access to its benefits.
  4. Academic Rigour: Academic integrity and rigour will be upheld as universities embrace the transformative power of AI in education.
  5. Collaborative Best Practices: Universities will collaborate and share best practices as the technology and its applications in education evolve.

This announcement closely follows the UK Government’s launch of a consultation on the use of generative AI in education in England. By issuing this joint statement, the Russell Group universities aim to foster a shared understanding of the values and considerations surrounding AI in education.

Ross Sleight, Chief Strategy Officer, EMEA at CI&T, said:

“Education is still yet to be transformed by AI. It’s centuries old in how it’s done, but that doesn’t mean change isn’t on the horizon.

Exams and essays can risk regurgitation over critical thinking. Institutions must ask themselves, what is the most effective way to facilitate and consolidate knowledge, and can new technology better support this?

Technology such as ChatGPT is here to stay, and while it does pose challenges for the education sector, fighting against it is a losing battle. Institutions need to work with it and use it to their advantage. Great innovation can come from it.”

Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group, highlighted the significance of AI breakthroughs in reshaping work dynamics and stressed the importance of preparing students with the skills required for successful careers. Furthermore, he emphasised the need to support university staff as they explore the potential of AI to enhance teaching methods and engage students effectively.

As the field of AI continues to advance rapidly, the joint statement of principles serves as a testament to the commitment of Russell Group universities to harnessing the transformative opportunities presented by AI.

John Kirk, Group Deputy CEO at ITG, commented: “The reality is that this technology is here to stay and deployed correctly can enhance our creative industries and help businesses transform marketing and customer interactions for the long term.

“With the digital skills shortfall still causing headaches for many companies, having systems in place to better understand such a high-impact technology is a step in the right direction.”

By prioritising the welfare of students and staff and safeguarding the integrity of education, the principles will help to ensure that AI adoption in universities is guided by clear and understood values.

Prof Michael Grove, deputy pro-vice chancellor (education policy and standards) at the University of Birmingham, said: “The rapid rise of generative AI will mean we need to continually review and re-evaluate our assessment practices, but we should view this as an opportunity rather than a threat.

You can find the full principles on the use of AI in education here (PDF)

(Photo by Suad Kamardeen on Unsplash)

See also: UK will host global AI summit to address potential risks

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