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29th Nov 2023

Survey reveals students’ views on AI in study search and admissions

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • Roughly half of international students say that they have used or expect to use AI tools to help them select a programme and destination for study abroad
  • But significant percentages are cautious about institutional use of AI, especially in admissions processing

IDP's Emerging Futures is one of those larger student surveys that is always worth paying attention to, and the latest edition – Emerging Futures 4 – is no exception. It gathered responses from more than 10,000 students between 19 July and 21 August 2023, and it's also one of the first surveys we've seen that explores how international students feel about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in planning for study abroad and admissions processing.

The IDP team provided a deep dive into the Emerging Futures 4 findings at the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) conference in Vancouver this week.

When it comes to AI, the survey found that just over four in ten students (41%) expect that universities will use machine learning tools to assess some or all of their admissions application.

"Do you expect the institutions where you are applying to use AI to assess all or part of your application?" Source: IDP

The findings also sound a note of caution, however, with respect to using AI in admissions. Roughly a quarter of students (24%) said they would be less likely to apply if they knew an institution was using AI to assess applications. That proportion dropped to 14%, however, if the institution was using AI as part of an assessment but where the final decision was made by a staff member.

The survey captured some mixed impressions on the part of students in terms of the perceived fairness of AI in admissions. Just over a third (35%) thought that AI tools could make the process fairer, but a similar proportion (31%) felt that such tools may introduce an aspect of bias.

Students' views on the use of AI in determining an applicant's suitability for a course. Source: IDP

Responding students also clearly felt that human advice would continue to play an important role in planning for study abroad, especially at the point of making an application for admission, shortlisting suitable institutions, and making a final choice as to where to study.

Overall, the results indicate that students expect to make use of AI tools themselves, with nearly half saying they will use artificial intelligence to help them select their programme of study and institution. But students' reservations about institutional use of AI, especially in admissions processing, underscore the need for transparency in the use of AI tools. Students should be able to understand the role that AI plays, if any, in how student information is processed and how admissions decisions are made.

For additional background, please see:

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