Agency and Student Development in Higher Education : A Cross-Cultural and Cross-Disciplinary Exploration

Lili TANG*, Soyoung LEE, Yusuf Ikbal OLDAC

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book Chapters | Papers in Conference ProceedingsBook ChapterResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Students experience development and growth during their higher education journey, but the exact mechanisms behind this process remain relatively unknown. This chapter seeks to shed light on how students develop, grow, and attain empowerment in higher education by focusing on the interactions between individuals and their surroundings (referred to as I-world interactions). Employing a multicultural and multidisciplinary approach, the chapter begins by examining various cultural and philosophical perspectives on I-world interactions, such as the German idealistic, Chinese Confucian, and Islamic Sunni philosophies. Subsequently, it delves into the implications of these interactions for individual development and growth in higher education, drawing from research in psychology, sociology, and education. The chapter argues that three fundamental elements underlie I-world interactions in all three philosophical approaches: the acknowledgement of agency, exercise of agency and enhancement of agency. Higher education allows students to exhibit agency, as supported by sociological theories and psychological evidence of human functioning. Students actively exercise their agency, especially when engaging with environmental factors both within and outside the university setting. If universities effectively structure and implement this process, they can contribute to the enhancement of students’ agency. The three shared elements among the examined cultural philosophies and the empirical evidence in educational, psychological, and sociological studies together form foundations for understanding how students become empowered in higher education and for positioning the enhancement of students’ agency at the centre of higher education across contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStudent Agency and Self-Formation in Higher Education
EditorsYusuf Ikbal OLDAC, Lili YANG, Soyoung LEE
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan, Cham
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9783031448850
ISBN (Print)9783031448843
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2023

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies in Global Higher Education
VolumePart F1814
ISSN (Print)2662-4214
ISSN (Electronic)2662-4222

Bibliographical note

An early version of this chapter was developed and revised from the open access article: Yang, L., Lee, S., & Oldac, Y. I. (2023). A cross-cultural exploration of student development in higher education: Acknowledging, exercising, and enhancing agency. ECNU Review of Education. Further revisions were made in the peer review process of the book.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.


  • Agency
  • I-world interaction
  • Cross-cultural
  • Cross-disciplinary
  • Higher education


Dive into the research topics of 'Agency and Student Development in Higher Education : A Cross-Cultural and Cross-Disciplinary Exploration'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this