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Christianity and the University Experience in Contemporary England. Dr Mathew Guest (Durham) Dr Sonya Sharma (Durham) Dr Kristin Aune (Derby) Professor Rob Warner (Chester). The Project in Brief. The project explores how students (aged 18-25) negotiate Christian identities at university

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Christianity and the university experience in contemporary england

Christianity and the University Experience in Contemporary England

Dr Mathew Guest (Durham)

Dr Sonya Sharma (Durham)

Dr Kristin Aune (Derby)

Professor Rob Warner (Chester)

The project in brief
The Project in Brief England

  • The project explores how students (aged 18-25) negotiate Christian identities at university

  • Large Grant (£334,000), funding:

    • replacement teaching costs for Investigators

    • Research Associate salary

    • travel to research sites, project seminars, dissemination at conferences

  • Duration: September 2009-August 2012

Research context 1 youth and religion in the uk
Research Context 1: youth and religion in the UK England

  • Religion & Society youth stream

  • British Sociological Association Sociology of Religion Study Group conference ‘Religion and Youth’ (2008)

  • Youth & Religion (ed. Dandelion & Collins-Mayo, Ashgate, forthcoming)

  • FaithXChange network

Research context 2 young people and christianity
Research Context 2: young people and Christianity England

  • National Study of Youth and Religion (United States) – surveys in 2002/3, 2005, 2008

  • Smith (2005) Soul Searching (Oxford University Press): young people as ‘moralistic therapeutic deists’

  • Denton, Pearce & Smith (2008) Religion and Spirituality On the Path Through Adolescence: stable religiosity but slight decrease in conventional religious beliefs & practices, esp. among Protestants. Positive attitude to religious congregations

  • Smith & Snell (2009) Souls in Transition (Oxford University Press)

Research context 2 young people and christianity1
Research Context 2: young people and Christianity England

  • Hoge et al. (2001) Young Adult Catholics (University of Notre Dame Press)

    • Commitment to & identification with Catholicism

    • But more distanced from & critical of the institutional church & less committed to specifically Catholic doctrines & practices

    • Catholic identity not necessarily central to their lives

  • Fulton et al. (2000) Young Catholics at the New Millennium (University of Dublin Press)

    • Sizeable group of young Catholics committed to stewardship of world

    • But decline in mass attendance, increasing individualism & resistance to official church teachings, esp. on personal & sexual morality

Research context 2 young people and christianity2
Research Context 2: young people and Christianity England

  • Savage et al. (2006) Making Sense of Generation Y (Church House Publishing):

    • Young people are happy with life and don’t feel the need for religion or spirituality

    • Popular culture central

    • Lack knowledge of Christianity & see church as boring and irrelevant

Research context
Research Context England

  • Why study Christian students?

  • What do we already know about Christian students?

    • Dutton (2008) Meeting Jesus at University (Ashgate)

  • Christianity as an identity marker for some students

  • Conflicts with other groups

Christian student groups
Christian Student Groups England

  • Christian Unions (UCCF) – 20,000 students in 250-350 CUs in UK (mostly England)

  • Fusion – 350 small groups in 70 UK universities

  • Chaplaincies:

    • Anglican and Methodist societies (often linked to Student Christian Movement)

    • Catholic societies (linked to Catholic Student Forum)

Freedom vs equality England

at Exeter University?

"The Evangelical Christian Union is the only society identified that has barriers to entry - both for membership of the society and to be on the committee of the society.

This is certainly not a debate regarding the beliefs of the society, it is one of equal opportunities."

(Exeter University Students Guild)

“Going to court is the last thing we want to do, but we really feel that our fundamental freedoms of belief, association and expression are being threatened here.”

(Ben Martin, Christian Union committee)

Arising questions
Arising Questions England

  • How does the university experience influence student Christian faith?

    • Liberalise, neutralise, consolidate, repudiate, or radicalise?

    • Symbolic boundaries and social construction of ethical certainties

    • How forceful are the dynamics of secularization and fundamentalism?

  • How does student Christian faith influence the university experience?

    • Social capital? Quality of learning? Social cohesion? Social activism?

    • Or privatized? – autonomous religious consumption

Aims England

  • To identify the religious beliefs and social values of Christian undergraduates

  • To explore the impact of the university experience – educational, social and religious – on those beliefs and values, and vice versa

  • To identify how organized Christian groups – from chaplaincies to CUs – help students respond to the university experience, and to examine their impact upon cohesion and division within the student body

  • To address implications of these findings for HEIs, government policy, and religious organizations

Methods England

  • Quantitative - A nationwide student survey of religious and ethical convictions, and attitudes to university

  • Qualitative – Interview-based case studies of undergraduate Christian faith and practice in three universities

Phase 1 questionnaire survey
Phase 1: Questionnaire Survey England

12 representative universities across England

  • 3 elite/traditional

  • 3 inner-city red-bricks

  • 3 1960s campus universities

  • 3 post-1992 universities

    Target: 3,000 randomly selected undergraduates per university.

Online survey tool bristol online surveys
Online survey tool England(Bristol Online Surveys)

  • Online survey better suited to target demographic

    (recognises popular media among young people)

  • Relatively inexpensive

  • Data ready configured for analysis

  • Speedy process of administration and data collection

Questionnaire survey topics
Questionnaire Survey Topics England

  • Basic Demographics

  • Religious influences pre-university

  • Christian activity at university

  • Christian beliefs

  • Social and moral values

Phase 2 case studies
Phase 2: Case Studies England

Durham University

University of Leeds

University of Derby

Method: One-to-one interviews with a sample of students in each university, exploring themes in more qualitative detail.

Categories of christian identification
Categories of Christian Identification England

  • Evangelical (Anglican and non-conformist, morally conservative, conversion-focused)

  • Mainstream Protestant (Anglican and non-conformist, with a more liberal approach to beliefs and values)

  • Roman Catholic (categorised separately due to distinctive theology and subculture)

Dissemination of results
Dissemination of results England

  • Academic publications and conferences

  • Briefings to interested parties

    • HEIs, Government, Religious organisations

  • Knowledge transfer through a website