An association of the UK’s leading universities has signed a raft of guiding principles on the ethical use of generative artificial intelligence (AI) among its students and staff, addressing the increasingly common use of the technology in academia.
Vice-chancellors of all 24 Russell Group universities that include the University of Oxford, the London School of Economics, the University of Cambridge, and Imperial College London, have designed five guiding principles (pdf) that will drive the use of AI in classes and offices.
These guidelines try to find a balance between using the technology responsibly and avoiding it being mishandled. The universities agreed to support students and staff to become AI-literate, allowing staff to be equipped to support students to use generative AI tools effectively. They will also adapt teaching and assessment to incorporate the ethical use of generative AI and support equal access to the technology, while ensuring academic rigor and integrity are upheld. The last principle is a vow by the universities to work collaboratively to share best practices as AI evolves.
The principles acknowledge that AI comes with many loopholes for plagiarism, bias, misinterpretation of information and can be built on the back of poorly paid workers. Nonetheless, the agreement indicated a shift in attitude towards the technology.
Four months ago, universities in the UK warned against the use of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in students’ assignments, as allegations of cheating using the chatbot emerged in different universities across the country, amid the notion that AI plagiarism could be difficult to identify.
In March 2023, several universities, including some of those associated with the Russell Group, banned the use of AI altogether, warning of the expulsion of students caught using the technology in their studies and assessments. In April, some Russell universities said they would opt out of Turnitin, a software that claims to detect AI-based plagiarism with a 98% accuracy, saying it may falsely accuse students of cheating.
“The rise of generative AI has the potential for a profound impact on the ways in which we teach, learn, assess, and access education,” said a joint statement issued by the universities. “Our universities wish to ensure that generative AI tools can be used for the benefit of students and staff.”