Professor Vira was giving an interview to Varsity about the University's student wellbeing planLouis Ashworth

The pro-vice-chancellor for education has said in an interview with Varsity that bans on AI software like ChatGPT are not “sensible”, explaining that “we have to recognise that this is a new tool that is available”.

Bhaskar Vira, who assumed the role in October, told Varsity: “I’m of the opinion that we have to recognise that [AI] is a tool people will use but then adapt our learning, teaching and examination processes so that we can continue to have integrity while recognising the use of the tool”.

As anxieties around AI-assisted plagiarism envelop the academic world, Vira’s comments on ChatGPT mark a departure from the recently adopted policies of other educational establishments. The New York City department of education has notably banned all use of the technology in its schools.

A spokesperson for the department said the ban was introduced in light of "concerns about negative impacts on student learning, and concerns regarding the safety and accuracy of contents".

Referencing this development in the U.S., Vira told Varsity: “I don’t think that’s sensible because these are tools that are out there, that people are going to be adapting to and using."

As pro-vice chancellor for education, Vira assumes overall responsibility for the University’s educational provision, devising and implementing Cambridge’s education policy.

Vira's stance on ChatGPT is shared by others in the academic field. Dr Peter Van der Putten, professor of AI at Leiden University, told Sky News: "It's there, just how like Google is there...You can write it into your policies for preventing plagiarism, but it's a reality that the tool exists".

Released in November by the tech company OpenAI, ChatGPT is an interactive chatbot which uses AI technology to generate text in seconds. It has surprised many with its ability to create fluent and coherent prose in response to a range of user generated prompts. Some teachers fear it will lead to the end of homework and assessment by coursework.


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Similar concerns have been raised in academia. Asked about how the University would detect AI generated text in work submitted for assessment, Vira said: “I don’t think we will ever stay ahead because it will become like an arms race, I think the AI will evolve quickly and will keep trying to evolve to avoid detection to technologies”.

However, Vira is careful to sound alarmist. He downplays the often lauded potential of ChatGPT. During his interview with Varsity, the pro-vice chancellor referenced an article in The Guardian, in which John Naughton argues text generating software, like ChatGPT, will eventually become "as mundane as Excel".

Microsoft has reportedly invested an additional $10 billion into OpenAI, the firm that makes ChatGPT, reinforcing the two previous investments it made in 2019 and 2021.