Conflicts between students and employees are not covered by the Norwegian Working Environment Act (this regulates the relationship between employers and employees), but the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority also supervises student learning environments at universities and university colleges. NLA University College has internal routines for handling such issues. This does not apply to cases regulated by the Universities and University Colleges Act that concern a student's right to appeal about exams, grades and other technical study conditions. As people, we are different; the threshold for what is experienced as a conflict may therefore also vary. A person who experiences that something is a conflict must be shown respect and understanding of the fact that this is what the person concerned feels - and there must be a culture for discussing conflicts. A distinction can be drawn between disagreements/irritation/misunderstandings on the one hand - and conflicts on the other. Characterising something as a conflict means that something has started to become more entrenched and there may often be strong emotions involved.
Disagreements should be resolved at the lowest possible level by the parties involved talking to each other to try to find out about the issue, sort it out and carry on with their lives. Conflicts must not be resolved at the lowest possible level, they must always be handled at the level above where the conflict exists. It should be resolved by the affected parties and the employee's immediate superior. This means that information about the case is not to be spread within the organisation and is only to be communicated to persons involved in the case and the person who is to deal with the matter.
In order to prevent conflicts, mutual expectations must be clarified. These are to be put in writing at a serviceable level and communicated. It must also be communicated that disagreements and conflicts are normal and not dangerous, but that they must be dealt with as early on as possible.
The procedure in the case of disagreement and conflict is as follows:
- If a student experiences a disagreement with an employee or employees, the student is to invite the employee(s) to a meeting about the matter so that the student can state his/her views and the employee can state his/her views. The parties are to try to find a solution here.
- If an employee experiences a disagreement with a student or students, the employee is to invite the student(s) to a meeting about the matter so that the student can state his/her views and the employee can state his/her views. The parties are to try to find a solution here.
- If a student experiences a disagreement/conflict with an employee or employees, the student is to contact the head of the student year/programme if a meeting such as that stated above does not succeed or the student is not comfortable about having a direct meeting with the employee. The head of the student year/programme is to assess whether he/she is impartial/disqualified due to prejudice. If he/she is disqualified due to prejudice, he/she is to ask his/her immediate superior to deal with the case. The student must specify in writing what the case concerns and the situation that is referred to and may not make an anonymous complaint. If a student wishes to make an anonymous complaint, there is no case to proceed with. The head of the student year/programme must then make the employee aware of what the student has experienced as a conflict. The head of the student year/programme tells the student what the employee intends to do about the matter. If the employee wants to explain something about the matter in further detail to the student, this is to take place at a meeting convened and chaired by the head of the student year/programme. If the conflict is not resolved after this, a formal case is to be established. If the student is taking a course where there is no head of the student year, he/she is to contact the head of the programme. If the contact is with the head of the student year, this person is to confer with the head of the programme before any action is taken in the case.
- The head of the programme is to inform the employee's immediate superior (if this is someone other than the head of the programme) and investigate the case further in consultation with this person through conversations with the individual affected parties and by questioning others outside the case without making the case public. If the case proves to be about stresses that must be expected and the subject-matter of the conflict lies within the boundaries of what a person has to accept in social interaction with others in the role of a student or subject teacher, the case is to be terminated and the involved parties are to be given a reality check. No measures are to be implemented, and the case is to be terminated.
- If the investigation reveals a conflict that requires action, the head of the programme and section head are to invite the parties to a meeting at which the head of the programme presents the case from each of the involved parties' viewpoints and tries to clarify what the parties require in order for the case to be resolved, or to determine a strategy for how to handle this going forward. Different measures are to be considered and specified in a document. The measures are to be tested out and evaluated within a certain period. A new follow-up meeting is to be agreed on. Minutes of the meeting are to be taken by the head of the programme and signed by both parties. At the follow-up meeting, the case can be concluded if both parties are satisfied with the measures. If the meeting reveals there is still conflict, new measures and a new evaluation must be agreed on. The measures are to be tried out and a follow-up meeting is to be arranged. The minutes must be signed and are binding on both parties.
- If the case is not resolved by the procedures in item 5, it is moved up a level. The pro-rector for education and the HR manager are to be informed about the case and the HR manager is to summon the parties to a meeting to which both parties may bring an advisor. The minutes are to be signed by both parties, a new action plan and more follow-up are to be agreed on and the measures are to be evaluated.
- If the conflict remains after this, the case may be brought before the conciliation board/courts.