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Zero Cambridge students investigated for ChatGPT cheating despite half admitting using it

49 per cent of students said they used it to help complete work for their degree


The University of Cambridge has not investigated a single student for using ChatGPT or similar chatbots to cheat in their exams, The Tab can reveal.

The Office of Student Conduct, Complaint and Appeals (OSCCA) confirmed there have been no investigations using the Student Discipline Procedure.

However, a survey of 540 Cambridge students conducted by The Cambridge Tab found almost half (49 per cent) had admitted using the AI chatbot to help complete work for their degree. A similar poll by Varsity, equally found almost half of Cambridge students said they had used chatbots for similar means.

Last month, faculties wrote to students reminding them of the “strict guidelines on student conduct and academic integrity” in which “students must be the authors of their own work.”

The Department of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics warned students that the use of AI platforms such as ChatGPT are considered “forms of academic misconduct” and could lead to sanctions under the University’s disciplinary procedures.

Jemma Jones, deputy faculty manager, wrote while it understood chatbots like ChatGPT were “new tools being used across the world”, the department urged students to be “very wary.”

She accused the accuracy of their content to be “questionable” while also taking aim at the “biased” nature of the information searching model which can result in “limited and harmful text and perspectives”.

Finally, she warned students to also be wary of the ethical concerns it has regarding the protection of privacy, the equity it has for users, and the “purposes to which the data may be put”.

A screenshot of an email sent to students on 5th May

Despite this warning, dozens of Cambridge students told The Tab how they are using ChatGPT to help complete their studies. Many said they use it as an optimised Google search and Google Translate, to summarise complicated articles and to help plan essays.

It’s “useful to condense information to aid understanding of complicated concepts,” claimed a first year computer science student.

It’s “useful to condense information to aid understanding of complicated concepts,” claimed a first year computer science student.

The survey found a large focus on its use in essay planning. One theology fresher from Homerton said whilst they have never used it to write an essay for them because they’d “feel fake”, they have indeed used it to plan their essay before.

An MPhil student studying nuclear energy at Lucy Cav wrote that it is “good at writing Python code for simple tasks” which saves “an insane amount of time in scientific programming.”

A software engineer who recently graduated with a maths degree from Trinity said the chatbot was so useful in his new job, it had prevented him from being fired.

Whilst pre-exam usage seems to be the most common, a first-year historian of art interestingly wrote it can set your mind at ease after having sat an exam as well.

For example, if you provide the chatbot with the mark scheme and an online essay that you have just written, they said it can even give you a rough grade.

Students aren’t the only ones exploiting this free technology, however. One natural sciences supervisor explained they often use the chatbot to get “easy examples” and “check the quality of [my students’] essays”.

But it seems that the AI is far from replacing the university’s prestigious professors and libraries holding more than eight million books. The supervisor claimed the quality of it is often a “solid” third and that there is no doubt their students write better essays.

There was a common theme amongst students that it is only useful when provided with information. In cases where it must come up with its own ideas, it was labelled by some as “useless” and “unreliable”.

Another MPhil English student at Clare Hall called it a “terrible source for information” and also pointed out further ethical issues that are not so obvious to its users at first glance. The student claimed it was “terrible for the environment” too due to the vast amount of water needed to power the cooling fans.

It seems that ChatGPT may be one of the things that Cambridge students actually moderate their use of, employing it more as a tool for learning, at their discretion, rather than for cheating.

The University of Cambridge said: “The Office of Student Conduct, Complaint and Appeals (OSCCA) receives referrals for academic misconduct relating to summative assessments. Academic misconduct, by its nature, includes students using AI in summative assessments, unless explicitly permitted by the assessment.”

“There have been no investigations using the Student Discipline Procedure, the University’s procedure for investigating academic misconduct, relating to Chat GPT or other AI Chat bots.”

Featured image credit: Logan Green

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