SHI survey: Only 13% of research institutions are prepared for AI

Somerset-based SHI International, together with Dell Technologies, released findings Wednesday from a new survey they collaborated on with the Center for Digital Education, which underscores the transformative impact of having artificial intelligence as an ally, and also raise serious questions about how it can integrate into the classroom, be used ethically or for personalized learning.

The Center for Digital Education conducted the survey of leaders and information technology professionals across the higher education space in the U.S. and found that around 50% of research universities have a defined strategy for deploying and managing AI technologies. However, only 13.2% said they are mostly or fully prepared to harness the power of AI effectively.

According to the survey results, around 50% of research institutions have a specific strategy for deploying and managing AI technologies, indicating a proactive approach towards AI adoption. However, almost 60% of respondents said they are only slightly or somewhat prepared. These institutions are looking for measurable benefits from targeted solutions before taking the leap.

SHI said it offers AI workshops that are designed to help these institutions create a clear, cohesive and actionable AI roadmap before getting started. These sessions provide an opportunity for detailed discussions to uncover key AI opportunities, making it easier to select initiatives that align with the institution’s objectives. This ensures that the adoption of AI is not just a tick-box exercise, but a thoughtful, strategic decision that yields positive results.

AI’s applications span a wide range in academia, with two use cases leading the way: chatbots (36.8%) and research tools (35.3%). The Top 5 use cases are rounded out by automation of administrative tasks, predictive analytics and student services (all 29.4%).

“Top research universities are at the forefront of innovation and have led to life-altering inventions like insulin, Wi-Fi technology and the pacemaker, so getting AI implementation right for these schools is critical,” Steve Troxel, public sector field solutions engineer at SHI, said. “Having the right policies and guardrails in place makes for the easiest integrations and allows these institutions to take full advantage of the AI systems they’re using.”

According to the survey results, more than 80% of respondents didn’t feel policies had been fully implemented, but 70% were either already using AI or plan to within the next 12 months.

This data should be a wake-up call to higher education boards of trustees and all senior leadership. A data-related incident due to the use of AI could not only put enrollments at risk; it could undermine research funding and, most importantly, compromise student safety.

Infrastructure readiness is another critical dimension of implementation, with only 16% of institutions confirming their infrastructure is ready for extensive AI integration for students.

Troxel added: “The pace of AI adoption in the line of business within higher education can be seen in the responses regarding data security and privacy policies. Usually, the CIO and CISO are keenly aware of the importance of establishing effective policies to govern data security and privacy due to the damage to their institutions that can come from a data security or privacy breach.”

Other key findings from research institutions include:

  • 48.6% either have basic training in place or plan to provide training for their staff;
  • Institutions need the most assistance developing an AI funding strategy (47.1%) and identifying available grants (44.1%);
  • Top barriers to implementation include too many competing priorities (36.8%), inadequate funding (36.8%) and lack of AI strategy or ownership (30.9%);
  • 29.4% have only somewhat or partially implemented data security and privacy measures into their AI systems.

“The best thing institutions can do is hop on board the speeding AI train and figure out how to use it to best reach their destination or goal,” Adam Robyak, field chief technology officer and principal engineer at Dell, said,

Read the full report here.