Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to revolutionise every aspect of our lives, help realise our ambitions to be a science superpower, and to foster economic growth across the UK. AI’s contribution to the UK could be as large as 5 per cent of GDP by 2030.
In September 2021, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport published the National AI Strategy which laid out a ten-year vision. This included a commitment to develop, attract and train the best people to build and use AI in the UK. To this end, £24 million of funding from the Government, universities and industry partners is being invested to bolster the introduction of new and diverse talent into digital and tech roles. This funding is being used to deliver 2,500 new Master’s conversion courses in AI and data science, with 1,000 scholarships offered to students from underrepresented backgrounds.
Furthermore, the Government published an AI Action Plan in July last year. The AI Action Plan outlines the activities being taken by each government department to advance the Government’s National AI Strategy and cement the UK’s position as an AI leader.
In June, the Department for Education launched a call for evidence on AI, asking for views on risks, ethical considerations, and training for education workers. The Department sought views and experiences from education professionals across the schools, colleges, universities and early years sector. The call for evidence closed on 23 August. The Government is analysing responses and will respond in due course.
Adult learners will also be supported to gain essential digital skills needed for life, work and study, thanks to new Digital Functional Skills Qualifications courses which begin this September. Research undertaken by Ipsos shows that 20 per cent of adults across the UK have either no or low essential digital skills that are essential to participate actively in modern life, work and society, such as turning on a device or connecting to Wi-Fi.
The new Digital and Computing Skills Education Taskforce will support this work by establishing what computing and digital skills are needed now and for the future, working closely with industry experts to encourage more young people to consider a career in key sectors such as cyber security, AI or computing.
I note the concerns over the potential use of AI by students to cheat and plagiarise. I would like to reassure you that the Department for Education has already taken decisive action to tackle provision of cheating services with new legislation enacted in June 2022 as part of the Skills and Post-16 Education Act. Deterring, detecting and addressing academic cheating and misconduct remain a high priority for the Government.
The Department also published guidance in March this year on the use of generative artificial intelligence in education. This document sets out the position of the Department on the use of generative artificial intelligence, including large language models like ChatGPT or Google Bard, in the education sector.
The Department is working with the Office for Students and the Office for AI to build our understanding of the potential risks posed to higher education standards by assistive tools, such as ChatGPT and other forms of AI software.
The Department has overhauled the outdated Information and Communications Technology curriculum and replaced it with computing. The Department has also invested over £100 million in the National Centre for Computing Education to inspire the next generation of computer scientists.
The Department is also investing more in technical skills and education, with courses and training in digital subjects often at the forefront of our reforms. Digital T Levels, Higher Technical Qualifications, Apprenticeships and Skills Bootcamps are ensuring that the UK meets the skills needed for priority technologies, including those increasingly needed for AI.
The Department is building on these initiatives through the Digital and Computing Skills Education Taskforce which brings together government and external expertise to increase the numbers of individuals taking digital and computing qualifications in mainstream and tertiary education, and to attract individuals into digital jobs.