Total Quality in Higher Education

By Solomon, Hazel | Management Services, October 1993 | Go to article overview

Total Quality in Higher Education

Solomon, Hazel, Management Services

'Education isn't a product.' 'BS 5750 is an industrial model, it's not relevant to education.' 'Students aren't customers.' TQ is a management control mechanism.' These are all 'why do' statements based on fear and ignorance. If you belong to the 'why do' camp then read no further. If you would like to be part of the 'how to' camp then read on.

This article aims to look at BS5750 and Total Quality Management (TQM) and explain how these have been used at Leeds Metropolitan University (LMU). This knowledge and experience will then be used to illustrate the appropriateness of BS5750 and TQM to education.

BS575O in Education

BS5750 and ISO9OOO, its European equivalent, is a quality assurance system which can be used as part of a total quality initiative or as a stand alone system. The principles of quality assurance are to prevent problems rather than correcting them after the event and to ensure that the system for managing quality is a series of closed loops so that nothing is left to chance and output is of a consistent standard Achievement of the registered firm symbol indicates that you are able to control the quality of your courses ensuring that the quality you specify can be achieved consistently. It is also scope specific so that you can limit the area of application eg short courses. BS5750 quality management systems are mainly concerned with ensuring the quality of the course provision rather than the quality of the course itself, ie the course may be first certificate or MBA level but the system for ensuring the standard of quality must meet with the requirements of BS5750. This would include for example, the staff recruitment process and the training needs analysis. If these principles seem reasonable and even desirable then BS5750 must apply within any context. What is needed in the educational context is to implement the standard in spirit not necessarily to the letter. Some of the 20 clauses of Part 1 of the standard are only relevant to non service organisations. If it is implemented properly, most benefit is gained by the process of analysing and documenting the system, rather than displaying the certificate on the wall. Obviously there are marketing advantages particularly if your clients (customers) are from commercial organisations.


Total quality is much wider and deeper than a quality assurance system and requires people to have a particular mindset with regard to the organisation, its customers/clients and colleagues. This usually requires a paradigm shift from our present state of mind to one which views both internal and external customers as the driving forces for the way we run the organisation. Many educational establishments are product rather than market driven. There are many different definitions of total quality because it is so difficult to define but Mike Robson's definition is Total quality is the development of a total organisational way of life which Puts quality first in order to satisfy customer needs and expectations. 1 The phrase 'total organisational way of life' would encompass:

* attitudes

* cooperation

* teamwork

* management style

* CL management information

* organisational structure

* training and development

* empowerment to solve problems

* trusting and open culture

* reward systems

* marketing activities

* design activities

* course delivery etc

All of these are relevant for educational institutions. If one should want to cross over into the 'how to' camp however, it is necessary to appreciate some of the underlying beliefs associated with a TQM philosophy. These are:

* 'there is a relationship between the economic viability of an organisation and its effectiveness'

* 'all organisations have an ethical responsibility to endeavour to satisfy their clients/customers'

* 'people are a vital resource to an organisation'

* 'nobody comes to work to do a bad job'

* 'everybody has good ideas'

* 'everybody performs better if they receive feedback and recognition (financial or not)'

TQM can be applied to any organisation because it should be used to make them more effective in achieving their purpose. …

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