Special Issue Information
The history of higher education in both Western and non-Western cultures finds direct roots in religion—from Buddhist monasteries in ancient India to Islamic madrasas in the Arab region, and to Christian seminaries in Europe and the colonial US. Through a process of secularization of the state apparatuses and their major educational institutions in the post-Industrial Revolution Europe and their colonies, most colleges and universities today are secular. Still, an estimated 2000 religious higher education institutions operate worldwide, and evidence suggests that the numbers are expanding. For example, sub-Saharan Africa has seen the largest growth in private higher education institutions with religious affiliations in recent times (Karram 2011 citing Thayer 2003).
A primary contemporary research interest reflects a recognition and avenues for further exploration that religious beliefs and praxis play significant roles in re-imagining the higher education spheres at individual and institutional levels. In the last few decades, scholars have argued that there is a “return” of religion in higher education (Jacobsen and Jacobsen 2012). Studies suggest that there is a higher level of interest in spirituality among US undergraduate students. Student-led religious organizations and places of worship have increased in college campuses. There has been a “resurgence” of studying religion in American colleges and universities (Hill 2009). In addition, there is an increasing number of proponents for “holistic student development” among student affairs scholars who argue that students’ spiritual growth is equally important (Mayrl and Oeur 2009). Some scholars go as far as naming the current higher education epoch as a “post-secular” campus (Jacobsen and Jacobsen 2012; Sommerville 2006).
While there is a growth in interest among scholars to understand how religion intersects with the academic lives of students, there is also room to explore whether and how religious higher education institutions influence and (re)produce knowledge, what the challenges faced by these institutions are, and how they envision the ways forward—particularly in the post-COVID-19 pandemic reimagination and reformation of the world. Simultaneously, both secular and religious universities and colleges grapple with continuous debates over academic freedom and autonomy, freedom of speech, gender identities, equality issues, radicalization, university governance and finances, and negotiation with state and other broader communities. A further area to explore is higher-level education focused on future religious leaders. Finally, given the interest in religious literacy across a wide spectrum of professions, continuous adult learning focused on related issues is worth exploration.
This Special Issue aims to speak to these current debates and go beyond them, particularly from a global perspective, by featuring empirical research papers, reviews of research studies, theoretical/conceptual discussions, and technical reports. The broad goals of the Special Issue are to explore whether and how religion is an important factor in higher education student affairs, how to (re)conceptualize religion and the ways in which it is negotiated at the institutional levels with other pervasive factors such as globalization, and to highlight interventions as well as innovations in both knowledge (re)production and dissemination—all from an international and comparative education perspective.
Dr. Katherine Marshall
Dr. Sudipta Roy
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