THE (Times Higher Education) - - ASIA UNIVERSITIES SUMMIT: NEWS - Rachael Pells

Uni­ver­si­ties of the fu­ture will use ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence to help them se­lect the most suit­able stu­dents, the pres­i­dent of Im­pe­rial Col­lege Lon­don has sug­gested.

Speak­ing at the Asia Uni­ver­si­ties Sum­mit, Alice Gast said that as uni­ver­si­ties would be “lead­ers” in the so-called fourth in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion, they had to em­brace the moral and tech­ni­cal chal­lenges ahead. “These are ex­cit­ing times,” she said. “The tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances that [are] sweep­ing the globe [are] a wa­ter­shed mo­ment.”

As an ex­am­ple, Pro­fes­sor Gast cited a re­cruit­ment method used by Unilever that in­volves a se­ries of al­go­rithms. Since 2016, the com­pany has used a com­bi­na­tion of AI and so­cial me­dia to re­view can­di­dates for in­tern­ships and grad­u­ate jobs.

Can­di­dates who click on a job ad­vert are di­rected to a com­pany site where they pro­vide ba­sic in­for­ma­tion. Suit­able ap­pli­cants are then sorted by an al­go­rithm and in­vited to play a se­ries of on­line games to as­sess their mem­ory and risk-aver­sion char­ac­ter­is­tics. Fi­nally, the can­di­dates use smart­phones to an­swer more ques­tions about var­i­ous “re­al­life” sit­u­a­tions be­fore be­ing in­vited for an “in­per­son” in­ter­view.

“Their ap­proach re­places cam­pus vis­its, elim­i­nates the sub­mis­sion of ré­sumés, re­duces the num­ber of in­ter­views and in­creases the ef­fi­ciency of the search process for both ap­pli­cants and the com­pany,” Pro­fes­sor Gast ex­plained. Thus, such ap­proaches to re­cruit­ment can cut costs and speed ap­pli­ca­tions.

Speak­ing to THE af­ter her ad­dress, Pro­fes­sor Gast said that she an­tic­i­pated that AI would “aug­ment” the stu­dent ad­mis­sions process. “As it is, we do the best we can with the in­for­ma­tion we have…but AI can use some of that in­te­gra­tive anal­y­sis to help hu­mans make bet­ter in­formed de­ci­sions.”

In her key­note ad­dress, Pro­fes­sor Gast high­lighted the strength of AI re­search and de­vel­op­ment in Asia and said that the re­gion’s uni­ver­si­ties should look to the fu­ture “with great an­tic­i­pa­tion and ex­pec­ta­tion”. “We are al­ready be­gin­ning to see the rev­o­lu­tion in ac­tion,” she said.

Uni­ver­si­ties al­ready use AI to a limited ex­tent, for ex­am­ple, in learn­ing man­age­ment sys­tems that en­able staff and stu­dents to ac­cess course ma­te­ri­als on­line and also in track­ing pla­gia­rism and stu­dent par­tic­i­pa­tion rates. Pro­gram­mers pre­dict that the “new gen­er­a­tion” of vir­tual learn­ing soft­ware will be­come in­creas­ingly so­phis­ti­cated, how­ever.

“Univer­sity lead­ers have im­por­tant roles to play in help­ing to man­age the changes that de­fine these times,” said Pro­fes­sor Gast. “These changes will af­fect our stu­dents, they will af­fect our staff, they will af­fect our neigh­bours, and they will af­fect so­ci­ety as a whole.”

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