University Policies on AI Writing Tools | Overview & List
Educators are in the process of working out how to respond to AI writing tools like ChatGPT, and many students (and instructors) are unsure exactly what is allowed right now.
Our research into the current guidelines of the top 100 universities in the UK indicates that most don’t have definitive guidelines yet and that individual instructors normally decide what’s allowed in their courses for now. Specifically, we found five responses to AI writing tools from universities:
- At 61% of universities, there seem to be no clear guidance or policy so far.
- At 8% of universities, the tools are banned outright.
- At 9% of universities, the tools are banned by default unless instructors say otherwise.
- At 10% of universities, individual instructors decide their own policy for now.
- At 12% of universities, the tools are allowed (with citation) unless instructors prohibit them.
If you’re unsure what is allowed in your case, always check your course guidelines or ask your instructor directly. Read on for a general summary of university stances so far and a table linking to specific guidance from the top 100 universities.
University stances so far
As explained above, even when there’s a default AI policy in place, individual instructors normally have the freedom to depart from it and decide what’s allowed in their courses. When no university-wide policy is in place, instructors independently decide on rules for their courses.
The resources currently available from universities are mainly guidelines for instructors or students, not official policies. Instructors are advised to create their own rules and communicate them clearly to students in their course guidelines and in class. The main approaches an instructor might decide on are:
- Banning the use of AI writing tools for assignments: Instructors may decide that these tools are incompatible with the learning objectives of your course and prohibit their use entirely. This is likely to be a common policy for now. AI detectors may be used to enforce this rule.
- Allowing AI writing tools in some cases: You may be told to use AI only for specific purposes (e.g., only for research, not writing), only for special assignments, or only with permission. You may also have to cite ChatGPT (or whatever tool you used) and describe how you used it.
- Allowing AI writing tools generally, when appropriately cited: Some instructors may decide to allow the free use of these tools in any assignment. They will usually still require you to cite them and possibly to describe in detail how they were used.
While it’s up to individual instructors to determine their policies, very few instructors right now will allow you to use AI writing tools freely without citing them. Universities generally agree that presenting AI-generated writing as your own work is plagiarism (or at least academic dishonesty).
List of university policies and guidelines
The table below provides links to resources on the current policies or guidelines of the top 100 UK universities (according to the Times Higher Education rankings for 2023). You can also check out the data in more detail in our research spreadsheet.
In each case, we tried to find the most definitive guidance available from the university. Because this technology is developing quickly and universities are in the middle of a semester, they normally don’t have a definitive policy statement yet. Most commonly, we were able to find:
- Resources for instructors, advising them on how to develop their own policy on these tools
- Resources for students, clarifying the university’s expectations
- Statements from faculty quoted in news articles
The table is organised alphabetically by university name and divided into three tabs for ease of navigation. Just find and click on your university’s name. For many universities, we weren’t able to find any information online yet. We will update the table as more information becomes available.
* No information online yet. We aim to update this article as more information becomes available. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a correction or update about the AI policy of your university.
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Frequently asked questions
- Can I use AI tools to write my essay?
Using AI writing tools (like ChatGPT) to write your essay is usually considered plagiarism and may result in penalisation, unless it is allowed by your university. Text generated by AI tools is based on existing texts and therefore cannot provide unique insights. Furthermore, these outputs sometimes contain factual inaccuracies or grammar mistakes.
However, AI writing tools can be used effectively as a source of feedback and inspiration for your writing (e.g., to generate research questions). Other AI tools, like grammar checkers, can help identify and eliminate grammar and punctuation mistakes to enhance your writing.
- How accurate are AI detectors?
AI detectors aim to identify the presence of AI-generated text (e.g., from ChatGPT) in a piece of writing, but they can’t do so with complete accuracy. In our comparison of the best AI detectors, we found that the 10 tools we tested had an average accuracy of 60%. The best free tool had 68% accuracy, the best premium tool 84%.
Because of how AI detectors work, they can never guarantee 100% accuracy, and there is always at least a small risk of false positives (human text being marked as AI-generated). Therefore, these tools should not be relied upon to provide absolute proof that a text is or isn’t AI-generated. Rather, they can provide a good indication in combination with other evidence.
- Are ChatGPT conversations private?
ChatGPT conversations are generally used to train future models and to resolve issues/bugs. These chats may be monitored by human AI trainers.
However, users can opt out of having their conversations used for training. In these instances, chats are monitored only for potential abuse.
- Is ChatGPT a credible source?
No, ChatGPT is not a credible source of factual information and can’t be cited for this purpose in academic writing. While it tries to provide accurate answers, it often gets things wrong because its responses are based on patterns, not facts and data.
- Currency: The dataset that ChatGPT was trained on only extends to 2021, making it slightly outdated.
- Authority: It’s just a language model and is not considered a trustworthy source of factual information.
- Accuracy: It bases its responses on patterns rather than evidence and is unable to cite its sources.
So you shouldn’t cite ChatGPT as a trustworthy source for a factual claim. You might still cite ChatGPT for other reasons – for example, if you’re writing a paper about AI language models, ChatGPT responses are a relevant primary source.
- How long will ChatGPT be free?
It’s not clear whether ChatGPT will stop being available for free in the future – and if so, when. The tool was originally released in November 2022 as a “research preview”. It was released for free so that the model could be tested on a very large user base.
The framing of the tool as a “preview” suggests that it may not be available for free in the long run, but so far, no plans have been announced to end free access to the tool.
A premium version, ChatGPT Plus, is available for £16 a month and provides access to features like GPT-4, a more advanced version of the model. It may be that this is the only way OpenAI (the publisher of ChatGPT) plans to monetise it and that the basic version will remain free. Or it may be that the high costs of running the tool’s servers lead them to end the free version in the future. We don’t know yet.
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