Austrian University Changes Bachelor Thesis System Due to AI Cheating

Written by Henrik Rothen

Mar.04 - 2024 2:28 PM CET

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Photo: Ascannio / Shutterstock.com
Photo: Ascannio / Shutterstock.com
Austrian University Changes Bachelor Thesis System Due to AI Cheating.

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In response to a growing trend of students using AI tools like ChatGPT and Google Gemini to write their bachelor theses, the University of Applied Sciences (FH) Vienna, WKW, is taking a novel approach.

Starting in the fall of 2024, the focus of bachelor's degree requirements will shift away from writing a thesis to engaging in academic discussions. This change comes after reports from the "ZiB Magazine" highlighting the increasing reliance on AI for academic writing.

Under the new system, students will work in groups of ten to twelve to present, discuss, and academically defend their research steps over three semesters. This approach aims to emphasize university-level discussion, argumentation, and critical engagement, according to Manfred Schieber, head of the Management and Entrepreneurship study area at FH Vienna. Participation in discourse and contribution to discussions will also be considered in evaluations.

Though the bachelor thesis is mandated by the University of Applied Sciences Act, it cannot be entirely eliminated. However, in the revised model, the thesis will serve more as documentation of the student's work steps, reducing the intimidation factor of this significant final project.

International Precedents

The FH Vienna is not the first educational institution to adapt to the widespread use of large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT and Gemini. For example, at the end of 2023, the University of Economics in Prague announced it would abolish bachelor theses. This decision reflects a broader concern about the integrity of academic work, exacerbated by the ease with which AI tools can produce scholarly content.

AI in Education

The debate extends beyond higher education to the use of AI tools in schools. In early 2023, schools in New York City banned the use of ChatGPT, while Austria seems to lean towards integrating these technologies into education. Austrian Education Minister Martin Polaschek emphasized the importance of preparing students for a future dominated by AI.

He highlighted the need for digital literacy, including source criticism, information competence, responsible use of digital media, and ethical awareness. The subject of "Digital Basic Education" is expected to play a significant role in this initiative.

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