Students' self-determination in Azerbaijan


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Purpose: It has been suggested that social impacts on young people are stronger in collectivistic societies than in individualistic societies due to stronger social norms. Therefore, the satisfaction of psychological needs might be more challenging for students in collectivistic societies. As Azerbaijani society is collectivistic, the purpose of this study was to explore the ways in which the need for the self-determination of Azerbaijani master's students is met in relation to their social circles. 

Design/methodology/approach: Forty-four Azerbaijani master's students were interviewed for this study, and their answers were analyzed from the perspective of basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness within self-determination theory (SDT). 

Findings: The findings of the current study suggest that Azerbaijani students' social environment is not supportive of furthering higher education through achieving a master's degree, and in some cases, this negatively affects students' well-being. Families in Azerbaijan mainly view higher education as being employment focused due to experiences of employment insecurity in the country. 

Research limitations/implications: The participants of the current study were from middle- and low-income families in Azerbaijan, as the interviewer obtained basic information on the educational and occupational situations of participants' families in addition to the interviewees' own states. Perhaps due to financial needs, it was mainly found that families valued making money over long-term self-development aspirations in their children. Reaching larger numbers of participants, future studies may purposefully sample individuals from higher-income families to reveal whether families with fewer financial concerns were more autonomy-supportive in the aspirations by young people to further their education or how the pattern of their support varied due to socioeconomic status. 

Practical implications: It is hoped that the presented results may guide the relevant authorities in the regulation of the employment strategies of youth in Azerbaijan, as high levels of youth unemployment and massive shifts to self-employment and low-skilled occupations create few opportunities to realize self-development aspirations in Azerbaijan. More efficient policies should be implemented to improve recruitment to good-quality jobs and increase the value of skills and knowledge in employment. 

Social implications: Interconnected cultural factors determine families' views of furthering education and affect how they satisfy the psychological needs of students in their education lives. It is anticipated that the present study will be useful for students mainly from developing countries in coping with their social environments in pursuing their self-development aspirations. 

Originality/value: Unlike previous studies, the authors suggest that through “gained autonomy”, Azerbaijani youth who comply with their elders when less experienced tend to gain control over their personal decisions by providing positive information about overseas experiences. The concept of “gained autonomy” also contributes to SDT in illustrating how members of collectivistic societies can attempt to satisfy their basic psychological needs. Copyright © 2022 Emerald Publishing Limited.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-85
JournalInternational Journal of Comparative Education and Development
Issue number2
Early online dateApr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


Asgarova, V., & Tsang, K. K. (2022). Students' self-determination in Azerbaijan. International Journal of Comparative Education and Development, 24(2), 69-85. doi: 10.1108/IJCED-08-2021-0080


  • Student motivation
  • Autonomy
  • Competence
  • Relatedness
  • Collectivist society
  • Interdependence


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