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Universities must embrace ChatGPT and not fight it, says Cambridge scholar

ChatGPT artificial intelligence software education university essay writing technology - Reuters/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
ChatGPT artificial intelligence software education university essay writing technology - Reuters/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

A senior University of Cambridge academic has warned there is no point in banning ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence chatbot capable of writing convincing essays.

Universities and schools have been scrambling to work out how to respond to the software, which can write convincing essays, pass doctors’ exams and write scientific articles.

Some universities are said to have already tried to ban the technology, with students already accused of using it to complete assignments.

However, Prof Bhaskar Vira, Cambridge’s pro-vice-chancellor for education, said that bans on AI software like ChatGPT are not “sensible”.

“We have to recognise that this is a new tool that is available,” he told Varsity, the Cambridge student newspaper.

“I’m of the opinion that we have to recognise that [AI] is a tool people will use, but then adapt our learning, teaching and examination processes so that we can continue to have integrity while recognising the use of the tool”.

Protecting academic integrity

Cambridge is in the process of reviewing its guidelines on AI platforms to departments and students in light of the emergence of ChatGPT, which was released shortly before Christmas. The technology, created by OpenAI in Silicon Valley, is free.

Mike Sharples, emeritus professor of educational technology in the Institute of Educational Technology at The Open University, previously told The Telegraph that some British universities are already banning the use of ChatGPT.

He said: “Some universities are already banning the use of ChatGPT but it's going to be very hard to detect whether students are using it, particularly if they write a first draft using it and then rewrite it or check it,” he said.

A Cambridge spokesman said: “We recognise that ChatGPT is a new tool being used across the world. The university has strict guidelines on student conduct and academic integrity.

“These stress the importance of a student being the author of their own work. Content produced by AI platforms, such as ChatGPT, does not represent the student’s own original work so would be considered a form of academic misconduct.”

Schools review chatbot use

Schools have also been reviewing whether they need to change homework activities to stop children from cheating. The head of Alleyn’s, an independent school in south London, said that ChatGPT threatens to make traditional after-school essays obsolete.

School leaders have also said that teachers will consider whether to carry out more “flipped learning”, where pupils do their research outside of the classroom and write more essays in class.