University of Galway AI chatbot Cara wins big at THE awards

8 Dec 2023

Image: © Jbyard/

Cara, the AI chatbot built with Galvia for student support services at the university, was declared the technological innovation of the year at the THE awards.

University of Galway has been recognised at the Times Higher Education Awards for Cara, one of the first student support AI chatbots in any Irish university.

The result of a collaboration between the University of Galway and Irish AI start-up Galvia, Cara is an AI-powered student engagement platform that complements the functioning of student support services at the university by answering questions based on information fed to it.

The idea is to free up time for the support service to attend to more urgent tasks and prevent the team from being inundated with questions that can be answered by AI technology.

Available 24/7, Cara can answer questions on daily student life, from queries about where to park a bike or the location of a specific classroom to reaching out for support when feeling lonely or unwell.

“What it has done for us is, it’s just challenged our assumptions around what’s bugging students,” Josephine Walsh, head of student engagement projects at the University of Galway, told recently.

“Every week, we look at ‘what’s hot’ on Cara, what’s trending, and we look at what’s happening in our physical centre as well as what our student advisors are hearing from students, which then dictates our next steps.”

Founded in 2017, Galvia was previously called Chatspace. The former Start-up of the Week has developed an AI platform to provide insights that help enterprises increase productivity and deliver better business results.

Cara helped the university to beat University of East London, which won the Highly Commended accolade in the technological and digital innovation category.

Now in its 19th year, the annual Times Higher Education Awards, which have been dubbed the ‘Oscars of higher education’, focus on the achievements of universities across the UK and Ireland. The latest awards were held at the ACC in Liverpool.

“Collaborating with the university to develop Cara has been an inspiring journey, showcasing the transformative potential of AI-driven solutions in advancing education and student wellbeing,” said John Clancy, founder and CEO of Galvia.

Dublin City University was the only other Irish university to be recognised at the awards, bagging a high commendation in the Widening Participation or Outreach Initiative of the Year category.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic