Jisc launches national centre for artificial intelligence in tertiary education

Endorsed by the likes of Amazon Web Services, Google, and Microsoft, the national centre is slated to help 60 colleges and 30 universities within five years

Today (27 Apr) sees the launch of a national centre for artificial intelligence (AI) in tertiary education.

Led by Jisc, the education and technology not-for-profit, the initiative aims to firmly establish immersive technologies in higher and further education.

Backed by the likes of Amazon Web Services, Google, and Microsoft, the plan is to deliver “AI solutions” at 60 colleges and 30 universities within five years.

Seven AI experts will form the backbone of the centre in the first instance, with support from others in industry and the education sector.

“Universities and colleges are at a critical juncture,” said Andy McGregor, Jisc’s director of edtech.

“AI offers the chance to help every student reach their highest potential by offering highly personalised education. However, this will only work if AI is used to augment the important role teachers play in education, and if ethics are at the forefront of implementing AI tools.”

An extract from Jisc’s new report on the current state of play regarding AI in tertiary education, published yesterday, makes the case for a national centre:

‘We are confident that there are now foundations to enable further adoption of AI in colleges and universities, but progress towards transformation of tertiary education would be slow if left to a few, scattered initiatives.’

The sentiment was echoed by Rose Luckin, professor of learner-centred design at University College London.

“AI is full of promise, but that promise will not be realised unless government, educators, experts and businesses work collaboratively to harness its potential,” she said.

“Now is the moment to accelerate AI adoption in tertiary education, and I’m very excited by the prospect of a national centre in this field.”

From the archive: UK’s first Institute for Ethical AI in Education bids to safeguard development of artificial intelligence

Jisc says that the centre will pinpoint effective AI solutions, measure them against its ethical framework, and test how they improve learning. It will also forge new AI solutions, and implement systems to assist teaching staff and reduce the amount of time devoted to admin.

PwC has predicted that AI will boost UK GDP by 10.3% by 2030, while the government’s Office for Artificial Intelligence estimates that it could boost productivity in some industries by 30%.

Despite the broad consensus on AI’s value, Jisc’s report notes that ‘university leaders lack the information required to make decisions on new technologies and are cautious about investing in novel digital technologies’.

Part of the national centre’s brief will therefore be to help other leaders achieve the tech-confidence levels of institutions such as Bolton College, where a digital assistant called Ada supports students by offering tailored responses to their questions.

“Developing our use and understanding of AI will only aid our journey to a more inclusive experience,” said Aftab Hussain, the college’s information learning technology manager.

“Jisc’s national centre for AI in tertiary education will be essential, sharing information, advice and guidance, and establishing an ethical framework with the sector that could guide the design, management and use of AI products and services.”

You may also like: In March, Jisc published a three-year plan to support universities towards a technology-empowered future


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