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How will generative AI affect students and employment?

August 2023

Sue Attewell, head of AI and codesign at Jisc, considers how AI is already being used by students - as well as how it will affect the labour market, recruitment, and the skills of the future

In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, artificial intelligence (AI) continues to make remarkable strides, reshaping the way we learn and work and challenging traditional paradigms. Among the various branches of AI, generative AI has emerged as a groundbreaking field that holds immense potential to transform the way we create, innovate, and learn.

Generative AI has not only captured the attention of tech enthusiasts and researchers but has also started to permeate the education sector, significantly impacting students and the future of employment. The rise of this transformative technology raises intriguing questions about the role it plays in shaping educational experiences and the implications it has on the evolving job market.

Recently, we organised five discussion forums for tertiary education students on generative AI. Our aim was to understand how students are currently using this technology and explore its potential impact on their learning experience.

Apprehensions included potential job losses from automation and the need to develop AI skills for future employment opportunities.

Generative AI and how students are using it

Students are leveraging generative AI in various areas to enhance both their academic and personal lives:

  • Writing - generative AI assists students in generating ideas, organising and improving their writing, and receiving feedback. Tools like ChatGPT, Notion, Quillbot, Grammarly, and Turnitin are commonly used.
  • Understanding - generative AI aids international students and non-native English speakers in clarifying meanings, utilising auto transcription and translation features. ChatGPT serves as a revision aid and helps with comprehension.
  • Maths - students use generative AI for solving maths problems and verifying solutions, although multiple AI-generated answers can sometimes create confusion. Discussions focused on practical applications of formulas.
  • Coding - generative AI, especially ChatGPT, is used as a faster alternative to conventional resources like Stack Overflow. Some students have developed automated algorithms, but concerns about reliability were raised.
  • Research - generative AI streamlines the search for academic papers and overcomes restricted access to publications. Tools like Elicit are used to obtain content behind paywalls.
  • Images - generative AI tools like DALL-E, Midjourney, and Canva assist in creating visually engaging images for presentations and projects.
  • Personal life - generative AI finds applications in students' personal lives, from obtaining book recommendations and recipes to creating playlists, managing tasks, writing stories, and enhancing gaming experiences.

Using generative AI in academia raises questions about where to draw the line. While exploring concepts and receiving feedback is generally acceptable, using AI to generate work submitted as one's own is not. Students seek clearer guidelines to understand when this line is crossed.

Student concerns about AI

Student concerns regarding AI integration in education encompass several key dimensions:

  • Information literacy - students voiced concerns about distinguishing AI-generated content and the need for critical evaluation of references and accuracy.
  • Data security - students expressed limited understanding of how AI tools handle personal data and questioned ownership of intellectual property generated through AI.
  • Regulation - students advocated for government-level regulations to establish boundaries and sector-wide guidelines in education, rather than a complete ban on AI.
  • Detectors - worries were raised about false accusations of plagiarism from AI detectors and the need for clearer guidelines.
  • Staff use - students desired transparency when academic staff employ generative AI and called for increased competence in using AI tools.
  • Equity - fair access and affordability of AI tools were concerns, as charging for access may exacerbate existing educational inequalities.
  • Overreliance - students raised concerns about an over-reliance on AI tools hindering intellectual growth and critical thinking skills.
  • Employability/jobs - apprehensions included potential job losses from automation and the need to develop AI skills for future employment opportunities.

Considering these perspectives is crucial for a balanced and inclusive approach to AI integration in education. Responsible regulation, transparency, and addressing student concerns are essential as we shape the future of AI in education.

Is it possible to detect AI?

Yes, but not effectively. Detecting AI-generated text poses challenges, and while there are techniques available, they have limitations:

  1. Writing style - analysing the writing style can provide hints, but skilled AI models can mimic human styles effectively.
  2. Classifiers - machine learning classifiers can be trained to distinguish AI-generated text, but these classifiers can be fooled by sophisticated AI models.
  3. Watermarking - embedding unique watermarks in AI-generated text can help detect its origin, but determined AI developers can potentially remove or alter these watermarks.

It's important to note that each of these techniques is not foolproof and can result in false positives, mistakenly identifying human-written text as AI-generated.

What are the implications for how we work?

The integration of GPT into our everyday tools is revolutionising the way we work. GPT's advanced language processing capabilities and text generation abilities are being seamlessly incorporated into various applications, becoming an integral part of our daily working lives.

With GPT integration into tools such as Microsoft (watch the co-pilot video), Bing, and Teams premium, tasks such as writing emails, drafting reports, and creating content can be augmented and accelerated. GPT's ability to generate coherent and contextually relevant text assists users in formulating ideas, enhancing productivity, and streamlining workflows. This integration brings the power of AI-driven language models directly to our fingertips, enabling us to accomplish tasks more efficiently and effectively.

GPT's integration into collaboration tools and chat platforms facilitates seamless communication and knowledge sharing. It can help in generating suggestions, answering queries, and providing real-time assistance, enhancing collaboration in remote or distributed work environments.

As GPT becomes an essential component of our everyday tools, its impact on work processes and productivity is significant. It empowers individuals to focus on higher-level tasks that require critical thinking and creativity, while routine and repetitive writing tasks are automated.

GPT is now being integrated into our everyday tools and will become part of our daily working life. Asked to imagine the workplace in 2030 (by Microsoft) people stated that they would most value changes that saved them time. People imagined producing high-quality work in half the time (33%), being able to understand the most valuable ways to spend their time (26%) and energy (25%), and never having to mentally absorb unnecessary or irrelevant information again (23%). And with AI poised to remake work, the future will arrive in months not years.

Job predictions

Forecasts indicate a potential impact of AI on the job market, with both job displacements and new job creation anticipated. Here is an overview of the predictions:

  1. Job displacements - the World Economic Forum predicts that AI could displace around 20% of existing jobs in the UK over the next 20 years.  Certain industries will experience more significant disruptions than others, depending on factors such as the level of automation potential and the adaptability of jobs to AI integration.
  2. Job creation - on the other hand, PWC predicts that AI could create approximately 7.2 million jobs during the same period. These new jobs are expected to emerge across various sectors, leveraging the capabilities of AI technology.
  3. Net job loss - considering both displacements and new job creation, there may be a net job loss of around 250,000 jobs. This signifies a shift in employment dynamics as the workforce adapts to AI-driven changes.

As AI continues to advance, it is crucial for individuals and industries to anticipate and prepare for the evolving job landscape. Upskilling, retraining, and embracing new opportunities can help mitigate the negative effects and maximize the potential benefits of AI integration.

Generative AI goes beyond simply identifying suitable candidates, it can contribute to building employability skills by recommending relevant short courses and training opportunities.


As the employment landscape evolves, employers are redefining their hiring strategies to focus on skills rather than traditional qualifications. A significant shift is underway, with one-fifth of employers now considering the completion of short courses and online certificates, known as micro-credentials, as one of their top three assessment criteria. This recognition of the value of skills is opening new opportunities for jobseekers.

In this changing landscape, generative AI is playing a pivotal role in challenging the traditional selection process. Aptitude tests, once the norm, are being reevaluated as generative AI can assist in evaluations. AI-powered CV sifting and shortlisting streamline the initial screening process, saving time and effort for employers, increasing the reliance on using keywords in applications.

Generative AI goes beyond simply identifying suitable candidates, it can contribute to building employability skills by recommending relevant short courses and training opportunities.

The integration of generative AI in the hiring process represents a fundamental shift in how employers identify talent and nurture skill development. As the lines between qualifications and skills blur, job seekers and employers alike must adapt to this new paradigm.

Skills of the future

According to a recent Microsoft survey, 82% of leaders say their employees will need new skills to be prepared for the growth of AI. By 2030, according to the WEF's Future of Jobs report 2023, the top ten skills on the rise in this evolving job market are:

  • Creative thinking - the ability to generate innovative ideas and think outside the box.
  • Analytical thinking - proficiency in analysing complex problems and making data-driven decisions.
  • Technological literacy - familiarity and competence with technology tools, platforms, and digital skills.
  • Curiosity and lifelong learning - a strong desire for continuous learning and seeking new knowledge and skills.
  • Resilience, flexibility, and agility - the capacity to adapt to change, bounce back from setbacks, and embrace new challenges.
  • Systems thinking - the ability to understand and analyse interconnected systems and their relationships.
  • AI and big data - knowledge and understanding of artificial intelligence and big data concepts and applications.
  • Motivation and self-awareness - intrinsic drive and awareness of one's strengths, weaknesses, and personal growth areas.
  • Talent management - skills related to attracting, developing, and retaining talent within an organisation.
  • Service orientation and customer service - a focus on understanding and meeting the needs of customers and providing excellent service.

These skills reflect the demands of a rapidly evolving job market, driven by technological advancements and changing workplace dynamics. Developing and honing these soft skills will be crucial for individuals to thrive in the evolving job market, where automation and AI technologies are reshaping the nature of work.

As with any transformative technology, it is essential to approach generative AI with a balanced perspective. While it offers tremendous benefits, we must also address potential challenges, such as ethical implications, bias in generated content, and the need for responsible use of this technology.

Generative AI holds immense promise for students and the workforce alike. By embracing its potential, understanding its limitations, and equipping ourselves with the necessary skills, we can navigate the ever-changing landscape of education and employment, and harness the transformative power of generative AI to shape a brighter future.

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