Here Are The Rules For Using AI At Every Major Canadian University & Yes, They Vary

Some schools say the use of AI is prohibited.

McMaster University campus. Right: A student using Chat GPT

Navigating the AI landscape at Canadian universities, including top schools like McGill University and the University of Toronto, feels like deciphering a complex tech code. As students try to get a grasp on one set of guidelines, another institution throws in a fresh curveball.

So, if you're a student eager to understand how ChatGPT fits into the academic scene or merely curious about how universities approach AI, let's delve into the distinct AI policies of Canada's premier educational institutions.

Spoiler alert — Canada's top universities don't always see eye to eye!

University of Toronto​

The University of Toronto released its guidelines for AI usage in August of 2023, and, well, they are not messing around.

The rules state that students who plan to use AI tools, such as ChatGPT, for any thesis papers must secure written approval from their supervisory team first.

Students are also expected to be completely transparent about the extent of their AI use in their research and writing. Those who aren't could face academic penalties.

​University of British Columbia

Like most universities on this list, UBC wants its students to use the AI boom to further their education, not hinder it.

To do this, the school has formed groups dedicated to teaching better practices around this principle. In a forward-thinking move, UBC celebrates the potential of tools like ChatGPT and dimes any ideas of banning it outright.

However, their rules are clear — students caught trying to pass AI-generated work as their own are in big trouble.

UBC holds its students to high standards of conduct, and any slip-ups in academic honesty get a close look. They even have a yearly report dishing the dirt on student discipline cases.

University of Alberta​

Taking a leaf out of some leading universities' books, the University of Alberta is steering its ship cautiously in the AI waters. The institution promotes a culture of clarity and collaboration, pressing instructors to lay down the AI law right in their syllabi.

But the school doesn't just want these rules thrust upon students; they advocate for both students and teachers crafting these guidelines together. So, it's not all about rules and warnings.

In fact, the university recognizes the value that tools like GPT-4 can offer, while still emphasizing that such tools should complement, not replace.

While the university is open to this tech's potential, any attempts to cloak AI contributions under one's own merit will result in punishment.

University of Waterloo​

Instructors at The University of Waterloo are being asked to clearly specify if students can use AI tools such as ChatGPT for assignments, tests, or exams.

They should also detail the acceptable limits and citation requirements for such tools. Students who fail to adhere to their professor's guidelines could face various academic punishments including:

  • letter of reprimand
  • disciplinary probation
  • grade penalty on an assignment, test, examination, or course; or, where applicable, failed standing in a term or modification of final grade
  • failed work term
  • extra academic work
  • removal of privileges
  • additional course(s), possibly taken as Degree Requirement, Not in Average
  • community service
  • suspension
  • expulsion
  • revocation of degree, diploma, certificate, standing or credit

Western University​

It would appear the faculty at Western University are split on the issue of AI usage by students. Some have banned it, warning students that they considered using Chat GPT, "a violation of academic integrity."

While others have embraced the technology and its potential.

“It makes no sense to ban students from using ChatGPT," said Ting Li, an Assistant Professor in the Information Systems group at the Ivey Business School, in an interview with the Gazette. "It saves time discussing basic concepts and directly talking about things that are creative."

University Of Ottawa

The University of Ottawa's approach to AI usage among students varies.

Students should refer to their course syllabus and individual assignment guidelines for clarity on academic integrity related to AI.

If AI tools are used, they should be cited appropriately, detailing their application in the work. When in doubt, students are encouraged to consult their professor.

"The increased availability of artificial intelligence software that can generate content — essays, translations, images, music and more — is raising several issues in the university milieu. For example, is the content produced factually correct? Is it original? The questions are many and the education world agrees on one thing: they’re unavoidable," reads a statement from the University of Ottawa website.

University of Calgary

The University of Calgary has recognized the potential of AI in shaping the educational landscape. Just like many other major Canadian universities, they have guidelines in place to ensure AI tools, such as ChatGPT, are used ethically and responsibly.

The university advises students to touch base with their instructors about using AI for coursework. It believes knowing the ins and outs of AI capabilities and limitations is crucial, so students are encouraged to test tools on familiar topics.

It encourages students to find innovative ways to integrate AI into their studies, like seeking feedback on assignments, prepping for debates, or gaining clarity on complex subjects.

However, citing AI tools is a must for students at the University of Calgary.

Most citation styles label these tools under "personal communication". Why?

Because the content these tools produce isn't always easy to trace back unless it's directly from your account.

Students must double-check with their professor before using Chat GPT or other resources.

​McMaster University

McMaster University strictly prohibits the use of generative AI for coursework, deeming it a violation of their academic integrity policy.

Using such tools is considered "contract cheating," equating it to outsourcing student work.

Any breach will result in charges of academic dishonesty forwarded to the Office of Academic Integrity.

However, the university acknowledges using ChatGPT 4.0 for generating sample rubrics that assess the incorporation of generative AI in assignments. So, some students are permitted to use it under those limitations.

McGill University​

McGill's plan for AI is definitely a work-in-progress. They've got guidelines and educational resources ready for the community, plus some safety nets to ensure AI is used responsibly. But, little has been said about the kind of punishments students could face if they are caught cheating with the tool.

Word on campus is, the School of Technology and Learning (STL) has thrown in some recommendations which, once green-lit, will give everyone a clearer path forward in the world of AI.

In conclusion, it's clear that Canadian universities are still trying to figure out how best to integrate AI usage into their curriculum.

So, if you're a student currently attending one of the institutions, you'll definitely want to maintain open communication with your instructors on the issue.

When in doubt, it's best to ask.

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

Patrick John Gilson
Patrick John Gilson is a Creator with Narcity Media focused on Ontario gas prices and is based in Toronto, Ontario.