The Impact of Maharishi's Vedic Science Based
Education in Higher Education:
The Example of Maharishi International University

Christopher H. Jones

Maharishi International University
Fairfield, Iowa, U.S.A.

(Originally published in Modern Science and Vedic Science
Volume 3, NO. 2, 1989, p. 155-199)

Table of Contents
Part 1


Leaders in higher education, backed by research on college outcomes, have drawn attention recently to the difficulty that universities and colleges face today in providing students with knowledge and abilities sufficient to understand and successfully address the deeper issues of their lives. The Vedic Science based education of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was developed in part to solve this "problem of substance" in higher education. This paper summarizes the research to date on Maharishi International University (MIU), the leading example of Maharishi's Vedic Science based education at the post-secondary level.

Research indicates that students at MIU develop increased flexibility of the nervous system, functional integration of the brain, field independence, creativity, efficiency of concept learning, non-verbal fluid intelligence, choice reaction time, psychological health and well-being, and awareness during sleep, an indicator of the development of higher states of consciousness. Cross-sectional studies, comparing MIU students with students from other colleges, show higher levels of moral reasoning, greater self-actualization, and higher levels of general academic knowledge and skills. Studies on the effect of Maharishi's system of education on the environment show that the group practice of Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program at MIU enhances a composite index of quality of life in the United States, and reduces auto fatalities, notifiable diseases, homicides, and the general level of violence in the country.

In interpreting these findings the author draws upon educational theory, Maharishi's Vedic Science and interviews with a cross section of MIU students. The conclusions are that (1) the overall effect of Maharishi's Vedic Science based education is to create integration or balance among the various aspects of the mind and physiology and (2) the chief agent of change in this system of education is Vedic Science itself, in which theory and experience are unified in the expanding consciousness of the student. Based on this analysis it is recommended that higher education institutions meet their current challenge by adding Maharishi's Vedic Science to their curricula.


Part 1

  1. The Challenge of Substance Facing Higher Education

    Part 2

  2. Maharishi's Vedic Science Based Education in Higher Education

    Part 3

  3. Research on Vedic Science Based Education in Higher Education at the Post-Secondary Level
  4. A Comprehensive Model of Change in Maharishi's Vedic Science Based Education
  5. Summary and Conclusion

Appendix A: Summary of Research on Maharishi International University
Appendix B: Research Supporting Maharishi International University's Long-Range Goals

I. The Challenge of Substance Facing Higher Education


An eminent scholar of Greek civilization once defined education as the expression of a community's awareness of a goal or standard for its collective life (Jaeger, 1945). In other words, that which is done in the schools, colleges, and other social agencies reflects the standard of living that a community believes should be achieved by its citizens.

If one accepts this definition of education, then one can only be encouraged by the many recent calls for reform in higher education,-1- for they seem to reflect an awareness on the part of society of a higher standard to which we would like our colleges to aspire. Furthermore, judging from the written reports, this higher standard concerns the very purpose and content of higher education more than its organization or administration.

Professional educators have taken seriously these calls for reform. In addressing the 1987 annual meeting of the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), Derek Bok, president of Harvard University, said, "The current challenge to higher education is not merely a challenge of public relations, but a challenge of substance, and we must treat it as such" (Desruisseaux, 1987, p. 1). As a symptom of the underlying problem, Bok cited the subtitle of the best-selling book at the time, The Closing of the American Mind: Education and the Crisis of Reason (Bloom, 1987).

The "challenge of substance" to which Bok refers we take to include two related challenges: first, higher education is being challenged to provide students with more profound and meaningful knowledge; and second, it is being challenged to develop students' abilities at deeper and more powerful levels. Both the knowledge and the organizing power that knowledge brings must be strengthened.

In the same year that Bok spoke to CASE, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning published a progress report on American colleges by Ernest Boyer (1987). In the introduction Boyer echoed the same concern for substance when he wrote,

The nation's colleges have been successful in responding to the diversity and in meeting the needs of individual students. They have been much less attentive to the larger, more transcendent issues that give meaning to existence and help students put their own lives in perspective. (p. 7)
The Carnegie Foundation report listed many specific concerns, including the gap between high school and college, the parochialism of most colleges, and the fragmentation of the curriculum. Underlying these concerns, however, was the suspicion that too little was being expected of a college education. As Boyer noted, "It is not that the failure of the undergraduate college is so large but that the institutional expectations are too small" (1987, p.2).

This "challenge of substance" is expressed also as an increased interest in the measurable outcomes of college. Whereas before college outcomes were the interest of researchers alone, in the last decade taxpayers, politicians, and educators in turn have given support to what has become known as the "assessment movement." This movement is dedicated to understanding through assessment the impact that college has on students, and to holding colleges and universities accountable for their educational outcomes. Legislatures in fifteen states have mandated that their state institutions measure the learning outcomes of their students. Furthermore, the United States Department of Education has used its influence to ensure that regional accrediting boards look at student outcomes in the accreditation process, thus putting pressure on private as well as public institutions to undertake assessment activities. According to Campus Trends, 1989 (El-Khawas) nearly seven in ten institutions of higher education now have some form of assessment activity in place.

Though the current calls for reform have expanded college assessment programs and focused public attention on the outcomes of college, research on college impact goes back more than half a century. We turn next to a few of the highlights from this research which identify specific areas of concern.

Research on College Impact

In general, the aim of college impact studies has been to answer the question of the effects of college on its students. In recent decades, however, the question has changed from, "What are the benefits that come with a college education?" to "Under what conditions do what kinds of students change in what ways?" This latter emphasis persists today.

One of the earliest compilations of the research, by Feldman and Newcomb (1973), summarizes 1500 studies (until approximately 1970) in two volumes. In it the authors conclude that the most salient changes among students were increases in

openmindedness (reflected by declining authoritarianism, dogmatism, and prejudice), decreases in conservatism in regard to public issues, and growing sensitivity to aesthetic and "inner" experiences. In addition, a majority of studies show[ed] a declining commitment to religion, increases in intellectual interests and capacities, and increases in independence, dominance, and confidence as well as readiness to express impulses. (p. 48)
As one can see from the list of outcomes, the majority of studies up to that time had addressed the stability of students' attitudes and values. Intellectual aptitudes, though admittedly subject to change, are discussed only briefly in a footnote (p. 29) in which the reader is referred to several articles. Studies of development among young adults were just appearing.

Since that time, research has increased, focusing on three main areas: values and attitudes, achievement, and human development. We see in these areas even more clearly the issue of substance in a college education.

Values and attitudes. The changes in values and attitudes reflected in the Feldman and Newcomb overview have been substantially corroborated by several large-scale studies by Alexander Astin (1975, 1977, 1985) of changes in student beliefs and attitudes. College attendance in general, he found, tended to strengthen students' competence, self-esteem, artistic interests, liberalism, hedonism, and religious apostasy, and to weaken their business interests.

Astin also discovered that these changes in attitudes and beliefs were largely peer-mediated, based on an indication that greater-than-average involvement in both athletic and academic activities (e.g., being a member of a college team or being in an honor society) was negatively correlated with these overall effects of college and, conversely, that involvement in student government tended to accentuate these effects. The author suggests that these two findings together "support the hypothesis that the changes in attitudes and behavior that usually accompany college attendance are attributable to peer group effects" (1985, p. 150).

Astin's conclusion that the peer group is the main influence in college is in part attributable to his self-report survey method, which is not likely to detect more subtle changes in emotional or cognitive development. Even so, this finding is disconcerting, and it brings into question the extent of the influence of faculty and instruction on student outcomes. A second concern emerges from the nature of the changes taking place - for example, increasing hedonism and religious apostasy. Inasmuch as these do not reflect the goals of any college catalog, they appear to be unintended and (most would say) unfortunate outcomes of college. They imply, rather, increasing skepticism and a retreat from the deeper values of culture which help give meaning and importance to daily life. These two concerns illustrate the effects of the problem of substance in the lives of students.

Achievement. A study by Robert Pace (1979) provides an in-depth summary of 50 years' research with achievement tests and alumni surveys. His review supports - and greatly expands - Feldman and Newcomb's passing reference to the benefits of college for scholastic aptitude. In general, with respect to achievement, Pace's summary shows that colleges have been very successful in imparting information. The more that students study a subject, the more they know it, and the more closely related a subject is to their major field, the more they know about it. "Seniors know more than sophomores and juniors know more than freshman" (pp. 166▄167).

Pace, by his own admission, was chiefly interested in achievement results, yet he reflects on the unfortunate division in the research between knowledge acquisition and personal development. Researchers who study knowledge acquisition and intellectual skills tend not to study personal development, and vice versa. Anticipating the Vedic Science based assessment approach we will discuss below, Pace calls for further study of the interaction of these two aspects of the college experience.

In recent studies, researchers have begun to probe into the factors behind knowledge acquisition and achievement. Winter, McClelland, and Stewart (1982), for example, undertook a large-scale study of liberal arts education. At one Ivy League college, they found improvements both in students' ability to form and articulate complex concepts and in their ability to deal flexibly and consistently with rational argument. These findings were contrasted with those from a state teachers college and a two-year community college, which showed little or no change in these same measures. Similarly, at a liberal arts women's college, Mentkowski and Strait (1983) found longitudinal and cross-sectional differences between freshman and seniors on a measure of critical thinking. Such studies give us hope that at least some institutions are going beyond knowledge acquisition, but simultaneously raise questions about the great majority of state and professional institutions to which these few institutions are compared. Further, one must ask how much beyond information acquisition are even the best institutions moving? To answer this question we turn to research on human development.

Human development. The third area of research on college outcomes is human development; that is, the changes that college brings about in stages of cognitive, moral,and ego development. In the forefront of theory and research in this area is Arthur Chickering. In The Modern American College (1981), the 800-page volume he edited, he solidifies the focus of his earlier work (Chickering, 1969), suggesting that "explicit concern for adult development can provide theŠ´unifying purpose or idea' for higher education. . . ." He presents entire chapters on ego development, cognitive growth, growth of intelligence, moral development, and nine other specfic areas of human development.

In his work Chickering has provided an extremely valuable service to this area of research by focusing the issues and variables surrounding human development. On the other hand, his work also points up the lack of definitive findings in many important areas. In The Modern American College, for example, the chapters on ego development, intelligence, and moral development present little evidence that college has a salutary effect on these aspects of personality. The authors cite one longitudinal study in progress using the Loevinger scale of ego development, no reported longitudinal studies of the development of intelligence in college, and one reported study of Lawrence Kohlberg's attempt to foster moral development among college students through a course on moral and political choice.

Other research on development during college, including more recent studies, has yielded mixed results. Studies of private, in some cases highly selective, institutions show modest freshman-to-senior differences in cognitive development and intellectual-ethical development (Mentkowski & Strait, 1983; Whitla, 1978). Studies of ego development have found modest gains in some cases (Mentkowski & Strait, 1983; Redmore, 1983; Loevinger et al., 1985) and no change over comparable periods of time in other cases (Adams & Fitch, 1982; Kitchener, King, Davison, Parker, & Wood, 1984.) Even in the instances where change in ego or moral development has occurred, the absolute differences between freshmen and seniors are not impressive within the stage theory itself. In terms of moral reasoning, though the Whitla study shows difference between the groups of freshmen and seniors, both groups functioned at a mean of stage four, where stage six represents the culmination of development. Stage four bases moral decisions on a continuation of authority and social order as compared with stages five and six, which develop the foundations of democratic citizenship and ultimately principled moral judgment. In terms of ego development, though the Mentkowski study shows a cross-sectional (though not longitudinal) difference between freshman and seniors, even the seniors were only functioning at stage four (out of six), labelled "conscientious." This level represents a stage beyond conformism but still prior to the full integration of the individual's conflicting inner needs. In neither case can one feel that college as an institution is meeting its responsibility in light of the end goal of human development.

All told, unlike the research with achievement tests, studies of human development remain disquieting. The change observed at even the best schools shows only modest gains, and several studies show little or no gains along this dimension of college impact.

It is clear from this brief review of the literature on college impact that college students do progress on measures of their knowledge and intellectual skills. In addition, their attitudes change, but not necessarily in response to instruction and not necessarily in a desirable direction. On the broader, deeper measures of human development, such as moral or ego development, there is little to inspire us. Some institutions do seem to have a modest though statistically significant impact on measures of human development (Whitla, 1978; Mentkowski & Strait, 1983), but these remain the exception among the 2,100 baccalaureate institutions in the United States, and on any absolute scale the change at even these institutions is not impressive.

This review, though by no means conclusive, serves to strengthen and focus the view that the vast majority of baccalaureate institutions are not significantly affecting the deeper levels of human experience and behavior. In response to students' questions about their identity, about right action, or about their purpose in life, colleges have typically supplied more information, more questions, rather than deeper knowledge or ability. As a result the scope of students' doubts has expanded rather than narrowed. As one report phrased it, "We have reached a point at which we are more confident about the length of a college education than its content and purpose" (Association of American Colleges, 1985, p. 2). This situation may be, as Boyer suggests (1987, p. 2), because expectations are too low, or it may be due to a lack of means to touch the deeper levels of the student's life. Ultimately, the two causes must go hand in hand: if one does not expect to affect the deeper levels of students' lives, they are unlikely to be changed; on the other hand, if attempts to address these deeper levels do not produce measurable results, then they are likely to be dismissed as unimportant objectives of the institution. For example, while institutions in higher education would like to develop the general intelligence of their students, most research indicates that fluid intelligence does not significantly increase after late adolescence. As a result, most universities do not attempt to develop intelligence. In either case, the research on college impact only clarifies the need for a system of education that is capable of successfully addressing the full range of human development - body, mind, and self - and such a system in turn requires a broader science of life than has been available in higher education in the recent past.

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