The Future of Catholic Universities in the Age of AI:
A Roadmap of Central Issues
This position paper is the outcome of the SACRU Scientific Colloquium on AI, hosted at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan, on July 13 and 14, 2023. The paper was written by a group of researchers from the SACRU partner Universities
Given AI’s increasing power and transformative potential, the SACRU conference was an occasion for examining not just the benefits and risks of a specific technology but the basic purposes and aspirations of a Catholic university in a technologically advanced society. At its best, what might a Catholic university be? What are the distinctive goods that Catholic universities can achieve and that give orientation and coherence to their activities? What are the essential and defining roles within a university, and what virtues and skills are required for persons to succeed in those roles as members of a university community? In answering such questions, this paper develops what might be called a normative vision for Catholic universities in a technological age. Because this was a meeting of Catholic research universities, the normative visions of the university can be divided into two broad areas: teaching and research. Because this was a meeting of Catholic research universities, the normative visions speak to the distinctively Catholic approach to higher education, including a conception of spirituality, the dignity of human persons, and the university’s proper role in furthering the common good of society.
The position paper adopts a realistic approach that addresses two challenges: the educational and the anthropological ones. It is divided into sections identifying the most pressing issues for the Scientific Colloquium. The issues are organized under three headings, based on the central tasks of the Catholic universities as understood by the authors: teaching, research, and service to society. The point is not to provide a rigid taxonomy but to give some organization to this complex technological revolution. In each section, the authors try to be aware of both the benefits and risks of AI in universities. Questions about possible connections between AI and the normative visions of the Catholic university are also included.
On July 13 and 14, 2023, the Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities hosted the Scientific Colloquium “The Future of Catholic Universities in the AI Age.” The multidisciplinary initiative involved different disciplines in the discussion on the impact of AI on universities. The Colloquium was organized in plenary sessions, which included a keynote speaker from each SACRU University and two parallel sessions (AI, Education & Research; AI, Universities within Society) in which the issues presented by the plenary speakers were further addressed. Following the Conference, a group of academics from SACRU synthesized the results in the position paper The Future of Catholic Universities in the Age of AI: A Roadmap of Central Issues.