Artificial Intelligence Plays Key Role in the Future of Higher Education

Artificial Intelligence-based technologies have the potential of becoming tools used to promote equity and provide personalized learning.

The use of AI and other technologies in colleges and universities open the doors of higher education to all disregarding where in the world they live. Location and time become a thing of the past while curiosity, creativity, and collaboration are encouraged and supported; students become global students, and universities become borderless.

In fact, a Stanford University study on Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030 shows how interactive machine tutors can be matched to students for a more focused and personalized learning experience.

Today’s students will become the leaders of tomorrow. Higher education leaders who know the benefits that AI can provide have the responsibility of equipping their institution with the AI that will be able to assess students, provide feedback, and test scientific hypotheses just as well as a human can. Perhaps even better. 

AI in higher education: Current status, looking into the future


AI will become a norm in every aspect of higher education / Source: Microsoft Research

In a survey conducted by Microsoft Research (MSR) in collaboration with Times Higher Education (THE), global university leaders provided feedback on the benefits of AI and its current status in higher education:

  • Only a minority of universities currently have an AI strategy, but most plan to develop one
  • Universities find it difficult to recruit and retain staff able to teach and research in AI
  • AI will increase employers’ demand for university graduates and will not lead to university closures
  • AI will be able to assess students, provide feedback, and generate a test scientific hypotheses at least as well as humans can
  • But universities will not cut teaching, research, or administration staff and may even recruit more

Most of the survey respondents agreed that AI will complement rather than replace human scientific input, a true human+machine collaboration resulting in a powerful combination of skills.

The survey evaluated the possibility of AI replacing humans in the lab doing the routine tasks. In this matter, the vast majority of respondents disagree that AI will decrease demand for humans in the lab, including research assistants, at least over the next 20 years. Twenty percent of respondents, however, expect such demand for humans in the lab to drop. In contrast, 72 percent do not believe this will happen and 46 percent strongly disagree with the suggestion.

Students today. Leaders tomorrow

All students must be taught specific technical skills which will allow them to program and interact with Artificial Intelligence in the future. Subjects and courses in ethics and philosophy as well as a focus on skills where AI is less likely to have an advantage such as complex decision making, critical thinking, entrepreneurship, and emotional intelligence will become part of a basic education to provide tools that will help them live and work with Artificial Intelligence.

Academic leadership should also consider that what students study today may well change. “Students across the world will have to face the possibility that perhaps what they are dedicating their lives to studying right now may soon become redundant,” said one of the students participating in a survey.

Every industry is adapting and changing toward digital transformation and Industry 4.0. University leadership must embrace Education 4.0 in order to remain relevant.

In time, those institutions which resist change and are unable to adapt, those that do not embrace AI will not remain competitive. They will have to make redundancies to try to survive, but in the end, they will become redundant themselves, indeed. Only change remains forever constant. Embracing change is paramount for every institution in higher education.