Sciences Po bans ChatGPT amid HE quality, integrity fears
Leading French grande école Sciences Po has banned the use of ChatGPT, the new chatbot capable of instantly writing essays, that has sparked consternation in higher education around the world.
Universities globally are scrambling to find ways to respond to the innovation they believe could exacerbate plagiarism and undermine academic quality and integrity.
This week news agencies reported that ChatGPT, developed by American company OpenAI on its family of large language platforms, had topped 100 million monthly active users in January, according to Swiss analysts UBS.
This was just two months after its launch on 30 November 2022, making ChatGPT the fastest growing consumer application in history.
Speaking to University World News, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation in the United States warned that universities and accrediting organisations needed to engage in artificial intelligence (AI) so that it supported – rather than replaced – authentic learning.
Sciences Po forbids use by students
On 27 January the Paris Institute of Political Studies, or Sciences Po, a research university of international standing specialising in social sciences and humanities, said in a statement about ChatGPT: “Without transparent referencing, students are forbidden to use the software for the production of any written work or presentations, except for specific course purposes, with the supervision of a course leader.
“The sanctions for use of the software may go as far as exclusion from the institution, or even from French higher education as a whole.”
In an email to students and faculty, Sciences Po Provost Sergei Guriev said: “The ChatGPT software is raising important questions for educators and researchers all around the world with regards to fraud in general, and particularly plagiarism. Sciences Po is committed to maintaining the quality and integrity of its programmes and degrees.”
The university’s academic regulations and anti-plagiarism charter provide a framework for protecting intellectual property, Guriev added. “This framework constitutes the sole basis for all individual and group academic work, whether written or oral.”
Sciences Po told University World News that the ban’s primary intention was to ensure academic integrity and prevent plagiarism. The university had not encountered cases involving the use of ChatGPT, but some professors have expressed concerns about plagiarism.
“We trust our students and our teachers, who know how their students write. At Sciences Po, students learn critical and reflective thinking and so ChatGPT should not be that relevant. Most examinations are conducted in exam rooms, the traditional way,” said a spokesperson.
“But certainly, artificial intelligence is one of the huge debates facing higher education now. This ban is not saying that we do not want AI here. There is a place for AI in universities. This is more about preventing a problem.”
This year Sciences Po will host a conference on the future of education and research, the university said, “in an ecosystem within which AI is playing an increasingly significant role”.
ChatGPT is one of the products of OpenAI, a start-up that describes itself as an “AI research and deployment company. Our mission is to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity.”
OpenAI was founded in San Francisco in 2015 by respected research engineers and scientists. Its co-chairs were entrepreneurs Sam Altman and Elon Musk – who founded private spaceflight company SpaceX and is now also the CEO of Twitter – and its chief scientist is Ilya Sutskever, an international expert in machine learning.
The company aims to promote and develop ‘friendly’ AI and ChatGPT is built on OpenAI’s GPT-3 family of large language models, honed with supervised and reinforcement-learning techniques.
On 23 January Microsoft announced the third phase of a long-term partnership with OpenAI “through a multiyear, multibillion dollar investment to accelerate AI breakthroughs”.
“It extends our ongoing collaborations across AI supercomputing and research and enables each of us to independently commercialise the resulting advanced AI technologies,” Microsoft said.
For OpenAI, the commercialisation of ChatGPT has already begun. This week the organisation announced that it was launching a pilot subscription plan, ChatGPT Plus, which will be available for US$20 a month.
The benefits, it said, were general access to ChatGPT even during peak times, faster response times, and “priority access to new features and improvements”. ChatGPT Plus is now available to people in America and, said OpenAI: “We plan to expand access and support to additional countries and regions soon.”
Introducing subscriptions to ChatGPT is unlikely to reduce impacts on higher education, as OpenAI says it will continue to provide free access to the chatbot – though it muddied the waters somewhat by adding that “the subscription pricing model will help ensure free access remains broadly available”.
US accreditation body concerned
Cynthia Jackson-Hammond, president of the Washington DC-based Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), told University World News (UWN) that the CHEA standards for recognition encourage innovation and creativity.
“However, the use of innovative practices should not infringe on the academic quality of teaching and learning nor the ethics on the part of the professoriate or students.”
Artificial intelligence is on the cutting edge of informational delivery and has proven to be an essential part of learning. However, it should not be deployed in any way that compromises the learning and assessment process, she said.
“It is incumbent on higher education and accrediting organisations to engage AI in a way that supports student learning and not as a replacement for authentic learning. Like every new innovation, there are philosophical questions that will arise,” Jackson-Hammond added.
“Artificial intelligence and quality assurance in higher education do not need to be at odds. Every institution will have to determine the complementary balance between AI, academic quality and integrity of practice.”
A positive view
Not everyone in higher education is worried. A positive view of ChatGPT has been elucidated by Dr Jason Wingard, president of Temple University in the United States.
Writing in Forbes on 10 January, he argued: “As someone deeply familiar with the crises facing my institution and others, I can say with certainty that ChatGPT is more hype than harm – and it might even offer some help.”
ChatGPT had been predicted to do away with higher education, Wingard wrote, citing some of the concerns expressed by educators.
“What these doomsayers fail to acknowledge is that programmes and services for solving maths problems and writing college essays and research papers already exist – and have for some time.
“The Photomath app, for example, has been around since 2014, with over 300 million downloads, allowing students to take a picture of their math problems and get the answers. On the humanities side, papers have been for sale for years. Educators and admissions officers are not only well aware of these ‘services’, but have learned how to spot and work around them.”
Chatbot responds to UWN’s questioning
This author asked the popular chatbot: What are the likely impacts of ChatGPT on higher education? The AI tool appears ‘chilled’ about its application in universities. This was the reply, received seconds later, echoing much that has been written about educational technology generally.
“The use of language models like ChatGPT in higher education has the potential to have a number of impacts. Some of the likely impacts include:
• “Improved student engagement and interaction: ChatGPT can be used to create personalised, conversational learning experiences that engage students and improve their interaction with course material.
• “Enhanced accessibility and scalability: ChatGPT can be used to provide educational content to a large number of students at once, making education more accessible and scalable.
• “Increased efficiency: By automating certain tasks and reducing the need for manual grading, ChatGPT has the potential to increase the efficiency of education delivery.
• “Augmented assessment: ChatGPT can be used to automatically grade student assignments, freeing up instructors to focus on more important tasks like providing feedback and guiding student learning.
“However, it’s important to note that ChatGPT is just a tool and the actual impact it has on higher education will depend on how it is used. Further research and development is needed to fully realise its potential.”