Contributions of Positive Psychology to Higher Education Across Asia: A Scoping Review and Unifying Thematic Framework

Deborah A. Hall*, Jesika Juliana, Mageswary Manickam, Anil Singh Toor Sunil Singh, Silvia Tze Wei Tan, Phuong Anh Vuong, FeiFei Wu, Amira Firdaus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Positive psychology offers a scientific window onto understanding and enhancing the welfare and growth of university communities, and as well as improving academic performance. This holistic approach is on the rise, yet most research is conducted in Western countries. This situation prevails despite the fact that two-thirds of the world’s population live in Asia. This review collated and synthesised published work on applications of positive psychology in higher education conducted in Asia, to describe the current status, explore conceptual perspectives and identify knowledge gaps. A total of 147 articles (157 experimental studies), published since 2000, were included. These were descriptive explorations (12.1%), quantifying associations between positive psychology constructs (62.4%), interventions (19.7%), and psychometric evaluations (5.7%). Key topics were academic leadership, organisational commitment, student engagement and foreign language learning. The thematic framework centered on ‘Optimal Functioning’, with ‘Personal Resources One Can Draw On’ and ‘How One Interacts With The World’ as direct influencing factors, and ‘Environment’ as an indirect factor. Across the Asian region, positive psychology’s major contribution is to identify what types of personal resources are associated with optimal functioning in higher education, but there is little high-quality evidence for intervention benefits, nor a deep understanding of how those resources can be effectively deployed to achieve well-being. As part of the third-wave positive psychology movement, scholars in Asia can play a greater leading role in re-evaluating traditional Western concepts to account for the socio-cultural context in which students and staff are embedded.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Asia-Pacific Education Researcher
Early online date19 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Jan 2024


  • Asia
  • Higher education
  • Optimal functioning
  • Positive psychology
  • Scoping review
  • Unifying thematic framework


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