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Exeter Education Incubator ChatGPT and Higher Education Project

By Kerry Deacon, Project Manager of the Exeter Education Incubator at the University of Exeter

Generative AI in Higher Education

Generative AI tools such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT-4 are changing the landscape in higher education. As with any new emerging technologies, there are opportunities to explore and challenges to overcome. Generative AI tools have the potential to transform teaching and learning by allowing for the automation of many forms of original content creation. 

Students and educators now face a difficult question: how do we mitigate the risks AI poses to education and assessment, and harness the potential benefits that might be going unexplored?   

The University of Exeter is committed to preparing staff and students to use generative AI tools ethically, effectively and appropriately within teaching practices and learning experiences. This commitment led the Exeter Education Incubator to develop a university wide project to:    

We recognised that the changes and approaches needed to address the generative AI opportunities and challenges should be determined by both students and staff, working together to develop a long-term vision that responds to the needs and abilities of each. 

ChatGPT and Higher Education Project 

Between April and June 2023, the Exeter Education Incubator supported a team consisting of University of Exeter academics, Professor Barrie Cooper and Dr Judith Kleine-Staarman, University of Exeter students, Holly Frostwick and Elliot Colyer, and our external consultant Callum Cant to deliver a ChatGPT and Higher Education project across the University. 

This project aimed to draw on the experiences of staff, students and the broader University of Exeter community to understand the perspectives on Generative AI tools in education, to gather user experience and identify the potential benefits and challenges Generative AI will bring. The project team specifically focused on the use of ChatGPT. 

The project team hosted a series of activities to engage the University community.  They delivered faculty specific hybrid workshops for staff and students, surveys and focus group interviews to collect their data.  

In the staff and student workshops the team facilitated a set of activities on topics related to the use of ChatGPT in higher education. Participants had access to ChatGPT or ChatGPT-4 and the team encouraged documentation through MIRO, an interactive online whiteboard. 

Surveys were used to follow up with workshop participants and the wider University of Exeter community to gather further feedback on generative AI, and focus group interviews enabled the team to engage specific stakeholders within the University to unpack emerging issues. 

All activities were designed to encourage meaningful discussions allowing diverse viewpoints and experiences to be shared and explored. The project culminated in June delivering a final report which outlines the project methodology, use cases, including faculty-specific use cases and generic recommendations for the University community.  We are proud to share the final report for you to read here. 

Education Incubator ChatGPT and Higher Education Project: Final Report

Moving Forward

Whilst this project has ended the Exeter Education Incubator will continue its commitment to respond to Generative AI.  In the next academic year 2023-24 we will welcome a small cohort of Incubator Projects that have responded to our open grant call on the theme of Generative AI. We will bring them together as a network of interested peers to share their project learnings with each other and colleagues to help build a wider impact from their small-scale pedagogical experiments.  You can listen and read more on Generative AI projects within the University of Exeter by following these links: 

Episode 1 – The Impact of Generative AI on Higher Education | EduExe (

An evaluation of ChatGPT in action | THE Campus Learn, Share, Connect (  

The University of Exeter is a member of the Russell Group Universities. The Russell Group have outlined a new set of principles on the use of AI in Education, which are available in the link below: 

Russell Group principles on the use of generative AI tools in education

Further Reading:

UNESCO ChatGPT and Artificial Intelligence in higher education: Quick start guide:

Project Grants 2022-23

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