Spirituality in Higher Education

12. 04. 2014

A comparative look at the Spirituality in Higher Education

University students’ Search for Meaning and Purpose; Albania & USA 

The project mainly dealt with a national study to find out the level of college students’ search for meaning and purpose carried out by HERI - Higher Education Research Institute Graduate School of Education & Information Studies at UCLA- University of California, Los Angeles. The findings as a result of the report involve 112,232 first-year students attending 236 various colleges and universities across the US between the years 2003 and 2007; help us to improve our understanding of the role that spirituality plays in students’ lives and to ascertain strategies that institutions can use to advance students’ spiritual growth. A similar study using the instruments of HERI has been carried out by our research team at Beder University to find out the similarities and differences for spirituality in higher education in Albania. The study was based on data collected in early fall and late summer 2012 from 2360 students attending a national sample of 18 colleges and universities in Albania.

The research contributes to the understanding as to how higher education medium serve students considering their religious and spiritual identities. The notions surveyed include students’ search for “spiritual issues and questions such as the meaning of life and work”, their view for “spirituality and related qualities such as compassion, generosity, optimism, and kindness”, their “engagement in spiritual/religious commitment”, the effects of spirituality on academic and personal development. The findings of this study show a current comparative look at the “Spirituality in Higher Education” in Albania and the USA.

There are important similarities and distinctions between those students who are strongly religious and those who are highly spiritual. These qualities manifest themselves in a variety of ways related to students’ practices, feelings, self-conceptions, and worldviews. Varying degrees of spirituality and religiousness also translate into significant differences in students’ political and social attitudes. Some of these differences, however, do not correspond to what would be expected in the current national political discourse. Spiritual and religious beliefs and practices also play a role in a students’ psychological and physical well-being.

The difference between the American and Albanian students in terms religiosity and spirituality  can be attribute to social, antropologic and historical fact regarding the two nations. Some of these can be evaluated in terms of the impact of former political system for Albanians, Social satisfaction level of the American society, exterior and interior features of students’ development, the fact that the new generation expresses certain pledge to matching materialism and spirituality. The study shows that there is a risk of neglecting  the student’s inner development while taking only material needs into account when developing policies about their education.