The Group of Eight (Go8) is pleased to make this submission to the Inquiry into the Use of Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the Australian Education System. The content will focus on the issues and opportunities this new technology presents within Australia’s higher education sector.
Please note that this submission represents the views of the Go8 network and member universities may wish to make their own individual submissions. The Go8 also consents for this submission to be published in full.
The Go8 comprises Australia’s leading research-intensive universities (responsible for 70 per cent of the sector’s research), with six of its members ranked in the world’s top 50 universities and all eight members ranked in the world’s top 100. Each year the Go8 invests $7.7 billion in research representing approximately 20 per cent of Australia’s total national expenditure on research. A recent analysis by London Economics found that in 2020 the Go8 had an annual economic impact in the Australian economy of $74 billion.
The Go8 is proud of its commitment to excellence: accepting quality students from all backgrounds who become quality graduates; the leaders of tomorrow in Australia and internationally. The Go8 educates 425,000 students – more than a quarter of all higher education students in Australia – and produces 110,000 quality graduates each year. The Go8 leads in postgraduate education, enrolling more than one third of all postgraduate students and almost half of all students in higher degrees by research. Go8 universities award half of all doctorates in Australia.
Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) represents a substantial acceleration in technological impacts on society, considered by many to be as significant as the Industrial Revolution. Generative AI will continue to evolve and will be an ongoing feature of work, study, and leisure internationally.
Following the release of Open AI’s ChatGPT in late 2022 there has been a high level of public interest in the possibilities created by generative AI for the future of work, education, research, creative pursuits, news, and many other areas of human interest.
In the education context, there has been a strong public focus on the risks associated with the use of generative AI. Some assert this new technology will foster unethical behaviour (cheating), erode the need for student learning, unfairly advantage some students over others and undermine academic integrity.
There are, of course, risks associated with generative AI – not least of which is that this technology generates responses using a vast volume of information, some of which may be incorrect or biased rather than objective. There is the known potential for generative AI using large language models (LLMs), such as ChatGPT, to convincingly present responses that are confected and not based on facts. Generative AI also presents potential risks to privacy and intellectual property.
The Go8 contends that we must address the risks and challenges inherent in the use of generative AI. We must develop and implement appropriate policies, strategies, and guidelines to support the responsible and ethical use of these new technologies and equip our students, staff and researchers with the knowledge and skills to empower them to lead in a generative AI-enabled world.
Generative AI tools are rapidly evolving and will be part of our collective future – playing an important role in future workplaces and, most likely, our daily lives. Entirely prohibiting the use of generative AI in higher education is therefore both impractical and undesirable.
As the use of generative AI becomes ever-present, our students must be able to provide critical, ethical, philosophical, legal, and technological perspectives on when and how to use these new technologies. While generative AI has a wide range of uses it is not sentient, does not possess the capacity to be logical, reasoned or make ethical judgements about the information it harvests or its outputs. The jobs and leaders of the future will be those who can apply human qualities and skills to the use of AI.
Go8 universities place a premium on applying a principles and ethics-based approach to the development of appropriate policies and strategies for the use of generative AI by our students, researchers, and staff. In the development of individual institutional approaches, Go8 universities are guided by Australia’s AI Ethics Principles, published by the Department of Industry, Science and Resources.
Maintaining academic excellence and integrity in teaching, learning, assessment, and research will continue to be a priority for Go8 universities as they adapt and lead in the responsible use of generative AI.
One of the chief concerns expressed about the use of generative AI in higher education relates to the potential for students to misuse the technology, for example to generate entire assignments or components thereof, not referencing appropriately, relying on AI rather than generating their own ideas, or using it to complete online exams.
These are legitimate concerns which are being addressed by our universities through a range of strategies tailored to the requirements of particular fields of study, to provide our students, the regulator and the public with confidence in the world-class education and research we undertake. These strategies include:
- Student education campaigns to promote academic integrity and how to avoid cheating and academic misconduct.
- Clear guidelines about the appropriate, safe, and ethical use of generative AI.
- A variety of assessment methods – including oral or other invigilated exams, program level assessment, and the use of e-portfolios and vivas.
- Use of technologies that may detect cheating or uncited use of generative AI material for further investigation.
- Engaging with students in assessment design and critiquing generative AI output.
Empowering students, academic and research staff to engage productively, effectively and ethically with generative AI.
Generative AI is a new frontier for academic staff as much as it is for students. Go8 universities are leveraging the substantial expertise of their academic staff in AI, ethics, and education to develop the resources required to build capability and AI literacy across all fields.
This new technology creates new possibilities for educators to create efficiencies and value-add to the learning experience across a range of functions such as:
- grading assignments and providing feedback to students in real-time,
- lesson planning,
- producing class discussion starters,
- sourcing case studies, and
- developing assessment questions.
Generative AI can create new opportunities for learning and discussion by involving students in the co-design of AI prompting for example, critical evaluation of AI suggestions, testing awareness of ethical considerations of AI generated responses and co-development of assessment processes. In this context, the benefits of generative AI include the potential for increased student engagement, collaboration, and critical thinking.
For all students there are particular benefits that may accrue from the appropriate use of generative AI, such as its potential to offer support equivalent to a personal tutor, and its capacity to break down complex concepts. However, the Go8 notes that where generative AI is promoted to students by their institution or required for particular studies, there is a responsibility for the institution to make that technology accessible to all. This can be achieved through enterprise subscriptions to ensure equitable access for all students.
The use of generative AI in research
Currently, Go8 members are not reporting a significant uptake of generative AI (e.g., ChatGPT) in the area of research, for example in the preparation of applications for research grants, the preparation of research publications or data analysis for research projects. However, the Go8 acknowledges that this is likely to be a fast-evolving issue.
It is important to note that generative AI is one tool among many that can be used to assist research. As with the use of all tools in research, integrity and quality are the responsibility of the researcher and their employing institution.
These responsibilities are also laid out in the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research with which all Go8 members are compliant. This link between the use of generative AI in research and the “Code” has been reinforced by recently published guidance from the Australian Research Council (ARC) on the use of generative AI in is grants programs.
One of the key elements of research integrity that the Go8 believes needs to be addressed explicitly in the context of generative AI is that of maintaining data confidentiality. Research studies – particularly in health and medical disciplines – will often include patient confidential information that can only be used under strict conditions. In some cases, there are also additional and special restrictions around Australian Government medical data related to Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) databases. Any use of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT for the analysis of such data runs the risk of releasing the data in an uncontrolled and unauthorised manner.
While the Code and ethics approval processes for individual research projects would prohibit the use of confidential data in this way, Go8 members are committed to ensuring the research community is aware of these risks of using generative AI.
These concerns are also relevant to the use of generative AI in research projects involving protected Intellectual Property (IP).
Go8 members have a particular focus on educating Higher Degree Research (HDR) students or about the potential risks of generative AI. This includes developing specific guidance to HDR students on generative AI and Go8 members have introduced or are in the process of introducing an oral defence component to the assessment of PhD candidates. This latter measure will provide PhD candidates with the opportunity to evidence their authorship of the thesis under examination.
Go8 members will continually monitor and respond appropriately to the impact of generative AI, aware of the fact that the technology is evolving extremely rapidly. This will ensure compliance with the highest research integrity standards and that the technology is used to enhance the research of our world-leading universities in the public interest.
In conclusion, the Go8 recognises that the use of generative AI in both education and research is a rapidly developing field. Go8 universities will engage in ongoing collaborative efforts to exchange and implement best practices as generative AI technology and its role in society continues to evolve.
 Policy on Use of Generative Artificial Intelligence in the ARC’s grants programs,