Top UK universities will now move to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) into their teaching and learning, according to a statement signed by 24 vice chancellors of the Russell Group.

The Russell Group, which includes Oxford and Cambridge University, has published a set of principles that it says will help teachers and students to “ethically” incorporate generative AI into their studies. 

Following the rise of generative AI applications like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, there have been growing fears within educational institutions that students are using AI applications to cheat and plagiarise. 

In March, an academic paper was published arguing that AI tools “raise a number of challenges and concerns, particularly in relation to academic honesty and plagiarism”

The paper, entitled Chatting and Cheating: Ensuring Academic Integrity in the Era of ChatGPT, was actually written by generative AI – much to the dismay of the peer reviewers who cleared it for publication.

Professor Debby Cotton, head of academic practice at Plymouth Marjon University and pretend author of the paper, told The Guardian: “We wanted to show that ChatGPT is writing at a very high level.”

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The recent Russell Group statement, however, claims that the use of generative AI in UK universities “has the potential to enhance the student learning experience, improve critical-reasoning skills and prepare students for the real-world applications”.

“The transformative opportunity provided by AI is huge and our universities are determined to grasp it,” said chief executive of the Russell Group, Dr Tim Bradshaw.

“AI breakthroughs are already changing the way we work and it’s crucial students get the new skills they need to build a fulfilling career,” Bradshaw added.  

The statement comes shortly after the government called for a “pro-innovation” approach to AI regulation and launched a consultation into the use of generative AI applications in education. 

There is a significant shortage of AI talent, and demand continues to grow faster than supply, according to research firm GlobalData.

AI-related active job postings more than doubled in 2021, according to GlobalData’s Job Analytics.

“The employees most in demand include data scientists, software engineers, technical leads and analysts, AI architects, and product managers,” GlobalData said.

Adding: “A lack of skilled talent is frequently cited as the main barrier to executing AI initiatives.”