Over three quarters of students that have used ChatGPT to complete University work said that they found it usefulMichael Hennessey

Almost half of Cambridge students have used ChatGPT to help to complete their university studies, an exclusive Varsity survey has revealed.

In a self-selecting online survey completed by over 400 students, 47.3% of students admitted that they had recruited the assistance of ChatGPT, or other similar AI chatbots, since they first emerged at the end of last year. Over a fifth of students that have utilised the new tool said they use it “often” or “always” when producing their work.

The use of ChatGPT was more common among STEM students, where 53% used chatbots compared to a 43% rate among Cambridge’s humanities students.

ChatGPT is an AI program capable of producing responses which can be indistinguishable from those of a human - including academic pieces of work.

Almost a fifth of respondents have used ChatGPT producing assessed work for their degree, such as coursework. A greater proportion of participants (38.5%) in the survey said they either had already, or plan to, use AI chatbots to help with their revision in the lead up to exams this Easter term.

Over three quarters of students that have used ChatGPT to complete University work said that they found it useful. One STEM student described it as “the equivalent to dropping one of your cleverer mates a message and asking them for help”.

Other students disagreed that the new technology is useful, with students telling Varsity that “it analyses poems like a five year old” and that it has “no understanding of texts beyond the most superficial possible readings”. One student agreed, saying that “it really showed me how valuable our degrees actually are… ChatGPT has very little critical thinking”.

A far smaller proportion of students who will take online exams this year, 7.3%, admitted that they plan to use it during their exams. Current University rules state that, although the University “recognises that artificially intelligent chatbots… are new tools being used across the world”, the University “has strict guidelines on student conduct and academic integrity. These stress that students must be the authors of their own work.”

The University also say: “Content produced by AI platforms, such as ChatGPT, does not represent the student’s own original work so would be considered a form of academic misconduct to be dealt with under the University’s disciplinary procedures. The University has issued guidance to Departments to help address concerns about risks to the integrity of assessments”.

Earlier this year, before the University’s policy was clarified, Varsity exclusively revealed that Cambridge’s pro-vice-chancellor for education had said that a Chat GPT ban was not “sensible” because “we have to recognise that this is a new tool that is available.” Varsity’s new survey has shown that over two thirds of students agree with the pro-vice-chancellor’s earlier comments and have said that they do not think the University should ban the chatbot.

One student said they think “it should be banned from writing essays but not from helping to understand material”. Another student agreed, saying that “banning it is pointless, and the university should focus more on teaching well rather than relying on students not to use the tools at hand”. Another student said the chatbot does not need banning because students who use it “will simply be lowering the quality of their work in a clearly identifiable manner”.

However, many other students strongly believed that the University should clamp down further on the chatbot, with one student claiming that there is a “big risk that it will perpetuate fake science”. Another student went further, telling Varsity in the survey: “I hate everything about ChatGPT. I hate its implications for creativity. I think it is a soulless, dangerous piece of machinery that will damage the integrity of academia. I detest it and think it should be banned.”

Other students claimed that the chat bot “has been immensely helpful in my revision explaining the answers in a way better way than professors can”. Another undergraduate said they would not need to use ChatGPT if the dons in their department “just did their job”.

Students also revealed to Varsity that ChatGPT is already being integrated into course content at the University, with one student saying that they had used a “ChatGPT-written sonnet as part of a prac crit supervision in English to analyse the idea of ‘authenticity’”.

Representatives of the University have told Varsity that they are “engaged with internal and external experts to understand the potential benefits and risks associated with the use of AI in the delivery of education, and in student approaches to learning”.

One student also said they had been told by a supervisor to get sample exam answers from ChatGPT because “that’s basically the best that you could be expected to write in the exam”. Another student said that the senior tutor of their college “seems pretty fine with it”.


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Despite the University’s promise to enforce restrictions on AI as part of their rules against plagiarism, only one student admitted to Varsity that they had ever been caught by University staff for using ChatGPT.

Many other students said that they had never used AI chatbots because they were “too scared” and “find it mildly terrifying that so many other people do”.

Several students said they have used ChatGPT to receive mental health advice, with one student anonymously disclosing that they use it “when I’m having a breakdown over essays” but say that they have “never used it for work purposes”. Another student claimed they had “used it to create a crisis plan for my depressed friend. It was 10x more helpful than the college therapist”.