Opening statement at House Inquiry into use of artificial intelligence in education

20 September 2023

20 September 2023 (Canberra)

The Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN) welcomes the opportunity to appear at this hearing of the House Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training for its inquiry into the use of generative artificial intelligence in the Australian education system.

ATN universities embrace innovative, engaging and authentic approaches to learning and assessment that develop students’ experience and skills in current and emerging technologies.

Our expertise and interest in this field is evident in the fact that between the six ATN member universities there were at least ten submissions to this inquiry.

While they all bring unique perspectives, we all agree that generative AI is a rapidly changing phenomenon with the power to affect all our lives. It is a challenging new element of education and work that we must strive to understand and harness responsibly.

Ensuring students, graduates, educators and researchers can use these technologies effectively, ethically and responsibly as digitally fluent citizens is a priority for ATN universities.

ATN has three succinct recommendations for the Committee.

  1. Place access and equity at the heart of our collective response to generative AI.

We must ensure that all students and staff have fair and equitable access to generative AI tools and that financial resources are not a barrier to success. Equally, we must also ensure that these tools are used in a socially responsible way. Societal bias, structural racism and overt discrimination of underrepresented and vulnerable groups can be replicated and amplified when using generative AI models, resulting in continuing disadvantage and harm.

  1. Prioritise educational institutions’ need for agility and flexibility in their responses to a rapidly changing environment and technology when considering regulation.

While regulation is important, it should not constrain or limit the flexibility and adaptiveness of institutions to respond to rapidly changing uses, tools and environments. Given the rapid change in generative AI and the early stage of our evolving responses, it is important that we adopt and evaluate a diverse range of responses so we can test and refine our approaches. Consistency and shared, national solutions have their place, but we also need not delay individual action until we have a common approach. Sharing information, evidence and best practice across education sectors will improve our collective response.

  1. Adopt and support innovative and proactive approaches and responses to generative AI, recognising that it is going to be part of the future of education and work.

Generative AI is changing the way we create and interact with content and solve problems. It is important that we prepare students and staff to think critically and evaluate the reliability, accuracy and context of the content generated and the way they use it.

It is essential that generative AI is implemented and integrated across all levels and fields of study to ensure that all students have the opportunity to build familiarity. This will ensure ethical and critical engagement with the appropriate use of such technologies in society, and that we are preparing our future workforce and cultural leadership in policy and government.

  • – Luke Sheehy (ATN Universities Executive Director)

Media Contact (not for publication)

Frank Coletta (Manager, Media and Communication) m: 0468 987 295 e: frank.coletta@atn.edu.au

The Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN) was established in 1999 and brings together six of Australia’s leading universities focused on enterprise, impact and finding solutions to issues facing our rapidly changing economy and society. Our member universities are Curtin University, Deakin University, RMIT University, The University of Newcastle, University of South Australia, and University of Technology Sydney. Our universities produce Australia’s most job-ready graduates and undertake world-class research with real-world impact. Through our innovation and leadership, we are proud disruptors challenging the status quo. ATN universities provide world-class education to almost 310,000 students and teach 20 per cent of domestic higher education students, along with 19 per cent of international students and we are the fastest-growing university grouping in terms of domestic students. Together, we are proud of who we include, not exclude, with a strong commitment to equity, excellence, and social justice. ATN is one of Australia’s leading university peak bodies with a track record of advocating and shaping positive policy outcomes with all levels of government.