Integrating AI into university courses and programmes

4 April 2022

People walking in the city with data code written over them

In the world of research, artificial intelligence is often described as the new industrial revolution. The demand for expertise has broadened to take in additional professions.

Expertise in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) is in high demand and has broadened to take in more professions. The new national WASP-ED programme is now being launched to develop education in AI. “We will be scaling up our capacity to teach artificial intelligence,” says Anna Foka, senior lecturer at Uppsala University’s Department of Archives, Libraries and Museums (ALM).

Anna Foka, senior lecturer at Uppsala University’s
Department of Archives, Libraries and Museums
(ALM).

In the world of research, artificial intelligence is often described as the new industrial revolution. AI is involved in everything from voice control and computer vision to collaborating robots, autonomous vehicles and advanced visualisation and interaction.

The Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation is now launching a new development programme to increase the capability and capacity of Swedish universities to offer relevant, up-to-date courses and programmes in AI. Programme leader Professor Fredrik Heintz of Linköping University comments:
“We now have the opportunity to work on a national level with education issues related to AI and other transformative technologies. Our goal is to support all education, not only engineering, to take a significant, qualitative step forward in their work with AI and what we call transformative technologies.”

Focus on the humanities and social sciences

Behind the new programme stand two well-established national initiatives in the field of AI: The Wallenberg AI, Autonomous Systems and Software Program (WASP) and WASP – Humanities and Society (WASP-HS).
WASP-ED will provide a framework for all higher education institutions affiliated to WASP and WASP-HS to work together to bring AI into more courses and programmes. Anna Foka will be participating from Uppsala University, bringing with her extensive experience of digital humanities in the field of cultural heritage.
“We will be focusing on embedding AI components into courses. This will involve both scaling up engineering studies for a wider audience and offering courses in AI to other professions and disciplines. Here at Uppsala University, we will place particular emphasis on the humanities and social sciences, as we have the longest tradition in Sweden in these subject areas.”

Digital cultural heritage studies

One example is the course Digital Cultural Heritage, which already covers AI methods and tools but will be further developed. Among other things, students will try their hands at optical character recognition and handwriting recognition. Another example from the field of technology is provided by the course Machine Learning, Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence, which is part of the Master's Programme in Statistics.
“AI will undoubtedly be included in more programmes. At the moment we are seeing many small initiatives, mostly in engineering programmes. While it is vital to review what is already being done, it is also important to embed new components,” says Anna Foka.

Investing in lifelong learning

Within the development programme there are also plans to invest in lifelong learning, i.e., continuing professional development for various occupational groups. AI is not solely something for the future, it is already in use in a number of fields, perhaps without people realising it. One example is speech recognition, which may lead to voice controlled systems or automatic transcription and translation.
“AI brings with it the promise of making our work easier. That everything will be automated, so that robots can do the work. While this is not really the case, it is important that we begin to incorporate these transformative technologies in our syllabuses,” says Foka.

National investments in AI research

  • WASP was founded in 2015 as a major investment in strategically motivated basic research, third-cycle studies and faculty recruitment in the fields of AI, autonomous systems and software. There are five partner universities: Chalmers University of Technology, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Umeå University, Lund University and Linköping University, which hosts the programme. The total budget is SEK 5.5 billion, of which SEK 4.5 billion is donated by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

  • Launched in 2019, WASP-HS is an investment in research in the humanities and social sciences spanning a dozen Swedish universities and research institutes. The programme has a total budget of SEK 660 million, with the largest donors being the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation and the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation.

Last modified: 2021-02-14