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Ethical Use of AI in Higher Education: The UNIR Declaration

AI Explained

Author: Enrique Frias-Martinez, Senior Researcher, Universidad Internacional de La Rioja (UNIR)

AI has become an integral part of our digital lives, offering huge benefits but also posing challenges such as potential biases and privacy intrusions. Moreover, AI is reshaping all productive sectors and will continue to impact virtually all jobs in the next decade, leading to some disappearing, others emerging, and most changing in some way.

In education, AI has the potential to supplement or even replace certain teaching and assessment roles, providing students with resources that enhance and potentially replace individual and collective efforts to improve academic performance. Higher education institutions like UNIR should and must adapt to meet the needs of an evolving world.

To this end, UNIR aims to reconcile the most beneficial aspects of AI with teaching and research realities. This goal underlies a declaration intended to lay down consensus guidelines for all members —teachers, students, administrative staff, board members, researchers, etc.—in the use, application, and even development of AI-based solutions. This commitment is articulated through the UNIR Declaration for Ethical Use of Artificial Intelligence in Higher Education.

The declaration outlines specific principles to guide the responsible development, implementation, and usage of AI within the educational sector, ensuring that these technologies benefit both the institution and the wider society without compromising ethical norms. Here are the five basic principles central to this declaration:

Principle of Social Benefit: AI technologies should be developed and used with the aim of benefiting society, contributing positively to educational and social progress. This includes enhancing the quality and accessibility of education, thus fostering greater societal good.

Principle of Non-Discrimination: AI applications must be free from biases that can lead to discrimination against any individual based on race, gender, age, disability, or any other characteristic. This principle emphasizes the importance of designing AI systems that promote fairness and equality.

Principle of Transparency: The operations and outcomes of AI tools should be understandable and transparent to users. This includes clear communication about how AI systems operate, the basis of their decisions, and the implications of their integration into educational processes.

Principle of Accountability: There should be clear mechanisms in place to hold developers and users of AI accountable for the ethical functioning of their systems. This includes adherence to all applicable laws and regulations, as well as ethical standards set by educational and technological communities.

Principle of Privacy and Security: AI systems must protect the privacy and security of all individuals’ data. This includes secure handling, storage, and processing of personal information to prevent unauthorized access and ensure data integrity.

By adhering to these principles, UNIR aims to lead by example in the ethical application of AI, ensuring that its benefits are realized broadly and equitably while mitigating risks and fostering trust among all stakeholders involved.

The full document (in Spanish) is available here.