Rwanda: Varsities Urged to Embrace Artificial Intelligence Technologies

The Minister of Education, Valentine Uwamariya has said that the universities that do not keep in tandem with the pace of growth of Information Technology (IT) and new development in Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be considered as universities of yesterday, as their students are already well-versed in these technologies.

She delivered the remarks during the opening session of the 14th Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) Annual Conference and Meeting on June 27, which is being held under the theme “The Future of Higher Education in the Age of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence.”

Uwamariya noted that the technological advancement mainly ushered by the fourth industrial revolution has rendered several academic theories obsolete, hence it is crucial that academia quickly work out strategies to remain relevant and ensure that learning is enjoyable.

“I, therefore, challenge us to think and rethink our approaches and the innovativeness of our universities, our research capacities, and our approaches to handling new caliber learners,” she said.

The advancement of AI and data science has brought about a paradigm shift in how youth are educated and the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the 21st century, the Minister said.

She noted that the higher education landscape is rapidly evolving due to the influence of AI, virtual reality, and data science, declaring that the use of the technologies can improve efficiency, effectiveness, and informed decision-making across all aspects of higher education–from students learning and retention to financial management and institutional planning.

Uwamariya highlighted the benefits for students, such as personalised learning and tutoring beyond the classroom, improved access to high-quality education through quick responses to generic and repetitive questions, and enhanced opportunities for tutors to personalise lessons and enhance their scientific research.

“The future of higher education is bright if we are prepared for these emerging trends. We need to evolve, learn and unlearn for us to succeed,” she emphasised.

Prof Gaspard Banyankimbona, Executive Secretary of IUCEA, urged the universities to adapt their methodologies to equip students with the necessary skills required in the rapidly evolving job market.

He stressed that embracing AI and new technologies is not merely an option for universities but rather a crucial survival issue, declaring that today’s students are interested in acquiring hands-on skills, and failure to provide such practical knowledge will result in students seeking alternatives elsewhere.