UCL says it will ‘support’ students in using ChatGPT for uni work rather than banning it

The university has advised students the tool can be used for ‘idea generation’ and ‘planning’

UCL has released guidance on using ChatGPT for assessments, stating they will “support” students using the AI tool.

ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI and launched in November 2022. Within five days of its launch, one million users signed up to the service.

The advanced AI tool has been criticised by some universities advising their students not to use the tool for assessments. Eight out of 24 Russell Group Universities have effectively banned the tool, including Oxford and Cambridge.

Queen Mary also sent an email out to students over the winter break, warning students against using the service to generate essays.

UCL is now one of the first universities to come out in support of the service. In guidance published in February 2023, UCL says that, “rather than seek to prohibit your use of them, we will support you in using them effectively, ethically and transparently.”

The university has advised students that the artificial intelligence tool can be utilised for “idea generation” and “planning” in relation to assessments, including using it for “drafting ideas and planning or structuring written materials, generating ideas for graphics, images and visuals, reviewing and critically analysing written materials to assess their validity, helping to improve your grammar and writing structure – especially helpful if English is a second language and experimenting with different writing styles.”

The university also provided guidance on how to acknowledge AI sources within assessments, and how to reference the tool, even providing examples on how to use ChatGPT for an essay plan.

However, UCL also recognises that the tool can have limitations, saying they can “provide misleading or incorrect information, and can negatively impact your learning as they can offer shortcuts that reduce the need for critical engagement that is key to deep and meaningful learning.”

The university did explicitly outline in their guidance that using ChatGPT to write an essay from start to finish is not acceptable.

Despite other institutions coming out against the use of the tool, the International Baccalaureate (IB), an alternative qualification to A-Levels and Highers, has advised students that ChatGPT will be allowed in essays.

According to the Guardian, working groups have been set up in university departments to assess the challenge of this latest iteration of AI text-generating technology, with the expectation that methods of assessment in certain courses will have to be updated.

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