Blog post

Broadening horizons: AI beyond plagiarism

Horia Onița, Iris Kimizoglu, Tamara Ciobanu

President of the European Students’ Union (ESU), Vice-President ESU, Executive Committee Member (ESU)

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Over the past months, the emergence of generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools available to the public has shaken up the higher education landscape. To this day, reactions to generative AI differ vastly, with some portraying it as key for a better future, or even a universal solution for all ails, while others foresee a fear-driven dystopia. Likewise, from the point of view of higher education, some sections of the academic community are ready to embrace generative AI from an innovation-driven outlook, while others are fearful of the abuse of AI tools, believing that it may lead to an increase in cheating.

In the last year, AI has been predominantly associated with plagiarism and its detection, but we are here today to acknowledge that it is imperative to start broadening this perspective and engage with a multifaceted approach to think about how AI can be deployed successfully, yet safely, in higher education. The following article aims to share the perspective of the European Students’ Union regarding AI in education, focusing on five areas that are beyond those that reach the news.

1. Disclosure of AI Usage:

Including AI in the educational process can offer several benefits, such as personalised learning experiences, feedback, and academic guidance offered in a timely manner. Nevertheless, transparency in the use of these tools is very important. Just as it is generally accepted that students should be expected to disclose the use of AI, the same should apply to teaching staff. Clear disclosure of AI usage should be mandatory, and students should be aware of how and when AI is assessing their work. Its use should be complementary to more traditional approaches and should not become a replacement for the teachers.

On the other hand, teachers need to embrace AI as a useful tool for efficiency and to enhance learning and teaching, making the whole education process more dynamic and more engaging. We believe this is a common responsibility, as both academic staff and students should openly communicate the ways in which AI changes their educational path, so that trust and collaboration between learners and teachers is fostered. Moreover, as AI will likely be increasingly used across many areas of society, academic staff and students should receive adequate training on how to use AI, in order to enhance data literacy regarding positive features and risks.

2. Impact of AI on False Diplomas and Records:

Attention needs to be paid to the steady rise of AI use as it also creates challenges for the authentication of academic credentials. With the advancement of AI, creating fake diplomas or records has become easier. It is time for higher education institutions and academic certification recognition bodies to create adequate measures that will prevent falsification and ensure the integrity of educational qualifications. The challenges facing Higher education institutions are increasingly complex and the support and guidance from ENIC-NARIC networks is sorely needed.

3. Personal Data Storage:

It is more important than ever to safeguard students' personal data. Higher education institutions should make data protection a priority, ensuring that all the information gathered is securely stored, and its use is guided by ethical principles. Another very important aspect of data protection is ensuring safety during transmission (e.g. for the Erasmus+ programme). This required dedicated policies and more work on the interoperability of the systems. Students should have control over their own personal data, even when it comes to modifying or deleting them. If we do not speed up the processes of establishing clear policies, transparent guidelines, and safe regulations on data storage and use, multiple risks may arise. This is why we underline the importance of adhering to stringent data protection laws in line with fundamental rights, strongly adapted to the current evolving landscape.

4. Accessibility and inclusivity:

Even if we witness the huge potential that AI has when it comes to enhancing the learning experience, we underline the importance of ensuring that all these advancements are equally accessible to all students. The sad reality is that we are at risk of a digital divide in education due to a lack of access. To this end, we believe that HEIs should provide all the necessary resources to support and ensure equitable access to AI-driven learning, including customised solutions for students with disabilities, accessible learning environments and dedicated options. 

5. The critical need for ongoing adaption

We would like to finish by acknowledging that the field of AI is continuously evolving. It is therefore essential to have a proactive approach when addressing its various dimensions. Regulations which are sufficient for today might be completely inadequate tomorrow, and all educational stakeholders should start engaging in a broad, honest and continuous dialogue in this respect. This need for ongoing adaptation should also include a focus on continuously adjusting the learning process because of AI – not just today but for the foreseeable future. A legal framework for the use of AI in education is necessary but will only be successful if co-created by all higher education stakeholders in order to foster trust, and if it is regularly revised.

Finally, we encourage dedicated research and innovation that is able to address challenges and dangers regarding the use of AI. By financing more of these initiatives, we will gain a better understanding of what is needed to ensure the responsible deployment of AI in higher education. 

In conclusion, artificial Intelligence is already having an irreversible impact on society, but more specifically on the higher educational landscape. Whether individuals view this change as positive or negative, the central question is how policy-makers and the academic community should approach this new reality. We, as students, envision a future where AI is not only synonymous with plagiarism. To make this a reality, we have to address the problem from all angles, harnessing the transformative potential of AI, while still making sure we preserve integrity and inclusivity in education.

About the authors

  • Horia Onița is the President of the European Students’ Union (ESU)
  • Iris Kimizoglu is the Vice President of the European Students’ Union (ESU) 
  • Tamara Ciobanu is the Executive Committee Member of the European Students’ Union (ESU)
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