Tuesday, November 07, 2006

'The Holiest Campus', its Decline and Transformation: The University of New England, 1946–79

I have just spent a frustrating half hour trying to find a particular article by Don Beer that I had seen before looking at changing student attitudes to religion at the University of New England. The article is relevant to my own experience, but also provides a snap shot of change during the seventies at one place and along one dimension. I decided to post it to ensure that I can find it again.

I have mentioned before that held strong religious views at University, views that influenced my attitude to the Vietnam War. In town I was an active participant in the Methodist Youth Fellowship. On campus I was a member of the Student Christian Movement and had friends in the Evangelical Union.

By the time I returned to Armidale again in 1981, my own views had shifted while both campus life in general and religious life in particular were less active. The abstract follows:

"In the mid-1960s and possibly earlier the University of New England (UNE), located at Armidale in rural New South Wales, was reputed to be 'the holiest campus' in Australia. The article finds a considerable body of evidence to give credibility to this view. It argues that UNE was relatively religious because it drew more of its students from the most devout social groups in Australia than other universities and because those students were then proselytized by religious societies that operated effectively and with strong clerical support in a small, cohesive institution. The ethos of UNE was broadly Christian, perhaps more so than that of metropolitan universities.

After 1965 there was a substantial decline in religious practice, belief and influence at UNE, as apparently at other Australian universities and in Australia as a whole. In the case of UNE, secularization was more than a decline in civil or social religion, more than a process of decline through differentiation: in the first half of the 1960s over half of the student body was highly religious but by the late 1970s the proportion had fallen to one-fifth to one-quarter. Associated with this decline was a transformation of religious activity marked by the reassertion of Christian denominationalism and the emergence of a non-Christian spiritual sensibility."

Beer, D. R. (1997)'The Holiest Campus', its Decline and Transformation: The University of New England, 1946–79.Journal of Religious History 21 (3), 318-336.doi: 10.1111/1467-9809.00042

No comments: