NHH takes measures for a better student environment

NHH By Linda Nøstbakken, Therese Sverdrup, Øystein Thøgersen

6 June 2018 08:25

NHH takes measures for a better student environment

In recent weeks, the environment at the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) has been criticized in Dagens Næringsliv's columns. The subsequent debate has been difficult, but also informative.

Difficult because we are very committed to ensuring that all students and employees are experiencing a great study and work environment, and stories that show that many do not feel that way is hard to read. However, the debate is also difficult because in many cases the media draws a picture of NHH, our students and our employees, which we do not recognize.

We acknowledge that we have students who experience the NHH student environment as exclusive and bad. We have referred to NHH's satisfaction survey, not to hide the challenges, but to try to convey a more nuanced image of the situation.

We know that not all students find a place in the social life on campus, and this is the reason why our new strategy promotes the goal of broadening our recruitment efforts to increase the diversity among both students and employees. The process to open up and make the procedures for admission into student groups more transparent started long time ago.

Nevertheless, the stories of students who feel excluded have surprised us. Perhaps should this not have been surprising to us, because the world has changed dramatically in recent years. Today, everyone is on social media, we share what we do and with whom we hang out, and we like and comment on what others do. Social media thus reinforces the feeling of being outside. Not only do you stand outside a group, but you also feel that this is visible to everyone else.

For these reasons, the debate has been very instructive to us. We cannot lean on old measures; the new reality of our students requires new approaches. Due to the seriousness of the problem, we take concrete measures immediately. With a clear objective that everyone should find their place and experience a good environment at NHH, we are working hard on a series of specific measures:

  • We clarify what is harassment and our reporting channels and routines. We have worked a lot on this since early fall, and the recent debate shows that it is important that we strengthen our efforts and that we to an even greater extent clarify what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
  • We develop guidelines for behavior at NHH (‘code of conduct’) in collaboration with NHHS. In the next few weeks, we will try to involve everyone at NHH to come up with and discuss such rules. We believe and hope that an inclusive and interactive process around this will contribute to a common understanding of what is acceptable behavior both face-to-face and in social media.
  • We have started working with the student association on specific measures we can take to ensure that admission into closed student groups follows an open process with clear and reasonable rules. The goal is that as many as possible get involved, contribute to and benefit from a good and inclusive student environment. We expect to have new initiatives in place already from fall.
  • We take steps to reduce unhealthy exam stress and pressure to achieve good grades. We offer courses in stress management, and we focus on these issues already in our first meeting with new students during the welcome week. The goal is to create a mastery climate rather than by a climate characterized by rivalry and competition.
  • We have started a review of our course portfolio, focusing on strengthening and clarifying knowledge about sustainability and responsible management. We will balance analytical skills with cooperation, diversity and soft skills.
  • We change the format of the welcome week for new students in August. We include more activities that are educational, focusing on collaboration and getting to know other new students in an academic setting, and getting more interaction in alcohol-free situations, such as a common breakfast every morning. Our main goals are to increase the number of meeting points between the new students to help them make new friends, and to trigger their academic curiosity from day one.
  • We have started a thorough review of our routines for use and access to the different rooms in the Basement at NHH, where many student groups have their own rooms. To have access to these rooms, we require that each group complies with NHH's rules and take efforts to contribute to a safe and good student environment. Individual students participating in activities in the basement should feel safe and the general safety and emergency preparedness must be high.
  • The management team will establish its own permanent contact point with externally recruited master students in order for their perspectives to be heard. This also applies to international students. In addition, we specifically work to improve the integration of international students, such as by strengthening the mentoring program for this group.

We are grateful that we have dedicated and courageous students who share their stories and shed light on important challenges for NHH. We take this seriously, and hope and believe the above measures, along with our ongoing work for a diverse and inclusive environment, will mean that students will meet an even better NHH when they return after the summer break.