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Effective practices of Continuous Quality Improvement in United States colleges and universities

Zhiming Xue, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Since the late 1980s, a growing number of higher educational institutions have adopted the philosophy of Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI), commonly known in industry as Total Quality Management (TQM). Thousands of industrial organizations worldwide have practiced TQM for decades, and many have succeeded in improving quality, productivity and profitability with it. Nonetheless, reaping the benefits of this promising quality management approach presents a challenge to higher education since the academic culture differs dramatically from that of industry. The purpose of this dissertation is to examine, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the optimal implementation characteristics of CQI in colleges and universities, and in particular, the most and least successful quality practices thus far implemented in academia. The underlying model used for testing the efficacy of TQM derives from six elements of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award criteria, and consists of Leadership, Information and Analysis, Strategic Quality Planning, Faculty and Staff Involvement, Process Improvement, and Improvement Results. This dissertation comprised two stages. The first stage involved two field studies. The preliminary findings from these two studies were used to guide the development of a broader-based survey instrument. The second stage was a nationwide survey of colleges and universities that have been implementing CQI. The survey data were analyzed to examine the characteristics and effect of individual quality practices such as leadership, quality planning, faculty and staff involvement, teamwork, training, business and peer partnership, union support, reward and recognition, improvement measures, and quality system assessment, and to explore the relationship between success with CQI and these quality practices. Further, the most and least successful quality practices were identified by dividing the surveyed institutions that had implemented CQI into three groups: the Beginning Implementers, the Somewhat-experienced Implementers, and the Experienced Implementers. The findings of the study supported the hypothesis that the success of CQI in higher education depends on having a quality model for higher education that is well-developed and well-validated.

Subject Area

School administration|Higher education|Management

Recommended Citation

Xue, Zhiming, "Effective practices of Continuous Quality Improvement in United States colleges and universities" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9841933.