Conflict resolution processes in New Zealand universities
Conflict Resolution (in some places this is referred more commonly as ‘dispute resolution’) is a term that encapsulates those processes and models that are employed in the practise of resolving conflict. The purpose of this study was to discover, describe and examine the ways in which conflict resolution is practised within the universities of New Zealand. While there is much published literature in this field from overseas, there is a notable absence of New Zealand published literature focussed on how conflict resolution is engaged with in New Zealand universities.
There are a small number of practitioners employed in New Zealand universities to offer services to resolve conflict. Using a purposive sampling method, four of these people were approached and interviewed individually about their role and their practice in conflict resolution. These interviews were then transcribed and analysed using a six phase thematic analysis within a constructionist epistemology. Constructionism encourages curiosity and focusses on the ways in which people attribute meaning to their engagement with the world. Constructionism was applied to a theoretical paradigm of postmodern critical theory. This theory rejects one-size-fits-all truth claims and seeks to critically examine the ways in which language is used, by whom, and how this contributes to the ways in which people make sense of their world. This study therefore has a focus on individual participants’ experience of the work in their particular university and examines the factors contributing to this.
The importance of the work and intention of conflict resolution is one that is valued highly by the participants in this study and is also instrumental in staff and students experiencing relief and support from what can often be demoralising and difficult situations. Robust conflict resolution processes can contribute to harmony on the campus and it is therefore important that conflict resolution services have a visible presence and are easily accessible by students and staff.
The study found there are many variations in the work and practise of conflict resolution in the universities represented in this study and that there is most certainly not a one-size-fits-all description that can be applied.