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Unlocking University Potential with AI

In 2024, universities will embrace technologies like AI to enhance campus operations, reduce costs and drive positive student experiences. The institutions that leverage these technologies will be the progressive, forward-thinking institutions of the future. These universities will evolve, excelling and adapting quickly to changing requirements.

As institutions strive to win and retain the best students from around the world, modernisation, digitalisation and transformation have taken centre stage to improve campus experiences and drive positive outcomes.

Sitting at the heart of this change is the need to implement Artificial Intelligence (AI), a technology which has become the key enabler across institutions to harvest and translate data into meaningful value.

The adoption of AI within a higher education community means progressive, forward-thinking institutions can truly evolve and excel in their education and research. They can also adapt quickly to changing requirements.

A Data-Driven Campus

One of the most important benefits of AI implementation is its ability to create smarter, more agile campus experiences. This enables everything from being able to shift and evolve in line with changing course requirements, better understand the specialist fields of staff, as well as being flexible in headcount. Most importantly, AI allows universities to identify and react to the dynamic wants and needs of students.

As stakeholders focus on getting the absolute most from the tools and facilities at their disposal, there is a significant efficiency benefit from AI implementations too. Greener, cleaner (and more cost effective) operations have become a critical requirement.

Achieving carbon neutrality through efficient buildings and spaces, where real-time intelligence automates lighting and heating, for example, will drive down costs and align with sustainability targets (a common purpose for students and management alike).

Driving Efficiency Across Campus

The efficiency benefits of AI are particularly important when you consider that utility bills produce some of the highest output costs  for education facilities throughout the year. It is of little surprise, therefore, that facility managers and IT departments are working together to analyse every element of the university to reveal problems, drive efficiency and ultimately keep costs down. 

AI technology can provide insight on the most granular details, helping universities to understand their spaces better than ever before. For example, rather than having lights, heating or air conditioning running constantly, location-based services powered by AI insights can ensure that utilities are only used as when and where needed.

This ultimately gives decision-makers a better understanding of which areas are the primary (most used) and secondary spaces (least used). During less busy periods, universities can choose to switch off utilities in secondary spaces to reduce unnecessary bills which also improves their efforts towards sustainability goals, too.

Supporting Students

AI can be leveraged to enhance students’ day-to-day experiences, particularly concerning their mental wellbeing on campus. Even pre-pandemic, mental health issues were plaguing higher education. A research has revealed that only 12 percent of students think their university handles the issue of mental health well. Easier and timely access to effective mental health services has become increasingly critical. With the assistance of AI and data intelligence, this is possible. Location services, powered by network automation, for example, can offer important student data and insights to pre-emptively flag when an individual might be experiencing mental distress. With the help of AI-driven technology, universities can quickly identify withdrawn behaviour – often a tell-tale sign of mental health issues.

If a student is spending most of their time confined to their accommodation, or continuously missing lessons, location services will pick it up. By leveraging this data, universities can then offer early intervention, whether from counsellors or mental health support teams.

Transforming students’ wellbeing from reactive services into proactive early alerts that deliver the right support at the right time can become a game changer in positive student outcomes.  

Addressing Data Privacy

Despite the numerous benefits of AI, as with any new technology, there are concerns around privacy. That is why offering an opt-in approach should be the way forward for higher education institutions adopting AI.

Students, and potentially their parents or guardians, will have a clear choice of how they want their data to be used, and those that do opt in will not feel monitored during their university experience. Families of students leaving for university will also have greater peace of mind knowing additional support and welfare oversight is offered.

By addressing these concerns at the first opportunity, universities and other higher education facilities can tap into the numerous benefits of AI, becoming more agile, cost-effective and ultimately providing the service new students expect. 

By Jamie Pitchforth, EMEA Vertical Practice Leader at Juniper Networks

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