Human flourishing: (Re-)integrating a Neglected Ideal into Higher Education
Keywords:Human flourishing, Higher education, Mental health
There is a rich, multidisciplinary (if not piecemeal) body of literature on human flourishing, amassed over the centuries, spanning philosophy, psychology, education, and the social sciences. Debates have centred on the nature and conceptualisation of flourishing, the personal and social conditions necessary for its realisation, its intrinsic composition, and its role in society. Although many approaches to flourishing exist, these converge on the view that flourishing is a generally positive phenomenon, with empirical evidence suggesting it is associated with a variety of individual and social benefits. This paper focuses on human flourishing specifically in the domain of higher education, where it currently receives little attention, arguing that flourishing is a worthwhile ideal to (re-)integrate into teaching, learning, and research practices as a means of helping to remedy some of the sectorâ€™s key problems and to realise future goals. Thus, this paper does not seek to advocate a particular position on flourishing, but to present a series of arguments in support of developing a focused research agenda on flourishing in higher education. Using examples from both higher education in general and in Japan, I argue that (a) human flourishing is an ideal congruent with the purposes of higher education, (b) a greater focus on flourishing is likely to help address the high prevalence of mental health problems among those studying in higher education institutions, (c) higher education institutions are strategically well-placed domains for implementing initiatives aimed at enhancing flourishing because they contain concentrated numbers of at-risk individuals, and (d) the promotion of flourishing in higher education institutions is congruent with, and likely to be conducive to, changes the sector must undergo to remain socially relevant and useful in the future. The paper culminates in the proposal for the development of a focused research agenda, in Japan and internationally, on the phenomenon of flourishing as a useful means of enhancing higher education quality and its contributions to social and economic goals. Specific research areas are suggested and discussed with reference to benefits and potential challenges.
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