In 2003, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) did a study based on spirituality & higher education and how it can help students. The research involved 112,000 American college freshmen, then a follow-up survey of more than 14,000 of the students after they completed their junior year at scores of colleges and universities nationwide.
Spirituality in Higher Education
Religion vs Spirituality
It was identified in the study that before they arrived at college many young students struggled with religious beliefs, which were further questioned during their time at college. Many young people rejected the dogma of ritualistic traditional religions but embraced the concepts of spirituality. They embraced the spiritual doctrines of a group community and working to improve the community and showing empathy towards other people.
A surprise finding was that the students who were more spiritual tended to perform better academically, they developed stronger leadership skills and were generally happier and enjoyed their time at college. It was not surprising that the research uncovered that students studying the arts were more likely to embrace spirituality than the ones that studied the sciences. It also identified that partying and an over exposure to television and video games inhibited spiritual growth.
Positives & Negatives
There were many positives but there was also the drawback that some students felt quite unsettled by the experience. They had difficulty when their whole religious belief structure was questioned and even negated by the spiritual philosophy. However, overall the study seemed to indicate the positive aspect of students investigating spiritual processes whilst they studied. It enabled them to learn to be in the present moment and not worry so much about exams and the future. The students reported feeling less stressed at a time when they were very busy juggling exam schedules, future ambitions and peer pressure.
Ground Breaking Research
This UCLA project was called “Spirituality in Higher Education” and it is ground-breaking research. It is probably the first time that a mainstream educational faciltity has embraced the prospect that education is not just about factual tuition. Instead, learning is a process of developing the mind and allowing the imagination and the creativity of those imaginations to run free whilst also applying logical analytical thinking to the assessment of an idea or concept. Whether it was through meditation, yoga, self-reflection, philosophical study the students felt different and better for the introduction of this spiritual syllabus.