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Repositioning quality culture in Higher Education. Kem Ramdass and David Kruger. Kem Ramdass 1, David Kruger 2 1 Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture, University of Johannesburg, Auckland Park Bunting Road Campus, Auckland Park, Johannesburg, 2092

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Kem Ramdass1, David Kruger2

1Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture, University of Johannesburg,

Auckland Park Bunting Road Campus, Auckland Park, Johannesburg, 2092 Telephone:0115591067, Fax: 0115591134

2Lecturer, Faculty of Management Sciences, Tshwane University of Technology,

Pretoria Campus, Private Bag X680, Pretoria, 0001 Telephone 0123825626, Fax: 0123825626


Total quality management, a collection of principles,

methods and best practices was aimed reducing waste and

increasing the quality of the product. Based on the

success of Lean Production and TQM in the manufacturing

industry, it was implemented in the service industry such

has healthcare, human resources, telecommunication and

so on. But there were some service categories where the

application of TQM was more difficult than others - the

field of higher education being one of these categories.

  • The first step in quality assurance is identifying the criteria that determine the quality of the service. There is a general perception among staff that the fulfilment of the HEQC criterion is an addition “burden” on the already heavy workload of staff. In addition to this notion, the fulfilment of the HEQC quality criteria by institutions seems to focus on the “quality audit” and not changing the perception of quality among staff.
  • This paper however, attempts to rekindle the notion of quality and the value that TQM can establish within an organisation, through secondary literature surveys. It provides an overview of the changing role of higher institutions worldwide and organizational dynamics impacting on them.

Education has become a primary focus for the SA government as the country grapples with skill shortages. Government policy since 1994 has strongly focused on repositioning higher education in terms of global technological and economic competitiveness. However there has been tension in terms of sector prioritization.


The dual challenge that higher education institutions face is firstly to contribute to economic growth of the country and secondly to improve the quality of life of its citizens. A number of institutions have been merged to form Comprehensive Universities and Universities of Technology (UT) which had an impact of quality service delivery.


HEI’s currently implement the quality imperatives of the HEQC with a primary focus on teaching and learning. The drive to satisfy the criteria of the HEQC of which the outcome is the accreditation of programmes does not satisfy customer expectations within a higher education landscape. HEI’s should move a step forward, by creating a quality culture within Higher Education, thus eliminating the “burden” of being accredited to offer quality programmes.


Globalisation, the government funding formulae and the scarcity of resources are forcing higher education institutions to use business improvement methodologies and quality models to survive in the increasingly global market. It has become imperative that universities must adopt business models such as business process reengineering (BPR), lean techniques and total quality management (TQM) to improve the quality that is rendered to students and industry.


The implementation of quality assurance initiatives in higher education in South Africa is neither new nor unfamiliar. A range of internal and external formal and informal quality assurance arrangements have been in place for many decades. What is new in relation to quality assurance in South Africa is the need to embed total quality management principles as a culture within Higher Education, thus responding to the rapidly changing landscape that now constitutes higher education. There is no clear indication from the authorities on how the required quality improvements can be achieved. Institutions are left to their own devices to find and implement improvements.


The Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC) ensures academic quality as a means of quality assurance by the implementation of institutional audits on teaching and learning, research and service learning at higher education institutions. There is a much greater need, in that customer satisfaction is still a matter of concern. Institutional quality, through the implementation of the ISO 9001:2008 requirements, also including aspects of the SAEM model, would together improve the status of quality in HE’s


Institutional quality is addressed by adopting quality principles and institutional self-assessment approaches where issues like leadership, policy and strategy, people management and satisfaction, client/customer focus and satisfaction, resource and information management, processes, impact on society and organizational results are analyzed to determine the institution’s strengths and areas to improve.

tqm in services
TQM in services

Total quality management entails the development of a quality culture from the onset of the organisation which strongly recommends people involvement. However, critics of TQM claim that the implementation requires unwarranted training and retraining costs, demands the commitment of all employees, consumes excessive amounts of time from all stakeholders, increases the amount of paperwork through formalizing all processes and procedures, and places emphasis on process over results (Caldwell 2006, 96-98). In the recent past an evolution of TQM has resulted in the development of an improved methodology known as lean six sigma where the principles of lean production and TQM were combined.


Thus, TQM and every other available improvement methodologies require substantial investment in terms of finance, technology, and human resource development over numerous years before the desired results could be achieved. The result is that in sectors where resources are restricted, shortcuts are followed where failure is practically guaranteed


Important factors to consider about the TQM programme is the fact that success is determined predominantly by intangible practices such as management commitment and leadership, employee empowerment, relationship building in an open organisation instead of features associated with TQM such as, quality training, process improvement and benchmarking and quality costs


From a South African perspective, there are major issues regarding the cultural understanding and the political connections of people that hinder the success of the country. Human resource management is a key feature in that the understanding of people and the building of morale through employee empowerment would determine the success of TQM.


Although the quality criteria are in depth, there is a lack of provision of standards whereby each process is defined in a value-adding context for the provision of services. Departments within the organisation continue to work in “silos” and communication across departments is problematic. The departments that support the academic function do not have clearly defined procedures whereby academics can access information about procedures. Therefore teamwork becomes very important. Teamwork would minimise the silo effect and in many cases it would annul the silo effect

service quality dimensions
Service quality dimensions

Tangibles – the physical appearance of the service facility, the equipment, the personnel, and the communication materials

Service reliability – the ability of the service provider to perform the promised service dependably and accurately

Responsiveness – the willingness of the service provider to be helpful and prompt in providing service

Assurance – the knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to inspire trust and confidence when dealing with customers.

Empathy – from service provider that the customer deserves caring, individualised attention from the service organisation.

iso principles
ISO principles

Principle 1 Customer focus - Organizations depend on their customers and therefore should understand current and future customer needs, should meet customer requirements and strive to exceed customer expectations.

Principle 2 Leadership - Leaders establish unity of purpose and direction of the organization. They should create and maintain the internal environment in which people can become fully involved in achieving the organization's objectives.

Principle 3 Involvement of people - People at all levels are the essence of an organization and their full involvement enables their abilities to be used for the organization's benefit.

Principle 4 Process approach - A desired result is achieved more efficiently when activities and related resources are managed as a process.

iso principles20
ISO principles

Principle 5 System approach to management - It is important to identify, understand and manage interrelated processes as a system that will contribute to the organization's effectiveness and efficiency in achieving the objectives of an organisation

Principle 6 Continual improvement - Continual improvement of the organization's overall performance should be a permanent objective of the organization.

Principle 7 Factual approach to decision making - Effective decisions are based on the analysis of data and information

Principle 8 Mutually beneficial supplier relationships - An organization and its suppliers are interdependent and a mutually beneficial relationship enhances the ability of both to create value

south african quality where are we and where do we need to be
South African Quality: Where are we and where do we need to be?

To attain superior quality products and services organisations have two important aspects to consider (1) provide the right tools for workers to do the job and (2) make available the right people to do the job including providing education and training.For management to attain a workforce with a positive attitude toward quality and a positive quality culture the following should be kept in mind:


Educate and train workers to be experts in their jobs.

Management must share its vision of quality and where it wants to be by communicating with employees.

Disseminate information regarding policies, procedures and targets set by management

Expect from workers a high degree of quality in their work. Expect zero tolerances to work non-conformances and you will get there eventually or come very close to it.

Empower people to do their jobs to the best of their ability. This means breaking down barriers in the work through the different levels of management so that workers can feel free to express difficulties in their jobs and to express things that hinder them from producing quality work.

Motivate people. Motivation is innate and comes from the person. However management can create an environment at work where people can become motivated. Consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs in relation to how could contribute to providing positive motivation

the three critical processes for quality management
The Three Critical Processes for Quality Management

Quality Planning

The logical place to start is quality planning. Quality planning consists of a uni­versal sequence of events - a quality planning roadmap. Firstly identify the customers and their needs. Design products (goods and services) which respond to those needs. Design process­es which can produce these goods and services. Finally, turn the plan over to the operating forces. Through processes, goods and services are produced to satisfy the customers.


Quality Control

Build the quality control system to ensure that quality performance is at least as good as planned. What the operating forces can do is minimize waste. This is achieved through quality control. Quality control relies on five basics: a clear definition of quality; a target, a clear goal: a sensor, a way to measure actual performance, a way to interpret the measurements and compare these with the target: and a way to take action, to adjust the process if necessary.


Quality Improvement

All of this activity only keeps quality at the planned level. Deliberate, specific actions need to be taken change this level of operation to a higher level. Control puts the process back to where it should have been in the first place. The quality improvement process is directed at long-standing performance levels. The quality improvement process questions whether this is the best that can be attained

manage quality costs
Manage quality costs

Internal failure costs

External failure costs

Prevention costs

Hidden costs

The Seven Service Wastes:

Delay - on the part of customers waiting for service, for delivery, in queues, for response, not arriving as promised..

Duplication - having to re-enter data, repeat details on forms, and copy information across, answer queries from several sources within the same organisation.

Unnecessary Movement - queuing several times, lack of one-stop, poor ergonomics in the service encounter.


Unclear Communication -and the wastes of seeking clarification, confusion over product or service use, wasting time finding a location which may result in misuse or duplication.

Incorrect Inventory - out-of-stock, unable to get exactly what was required, substitute products or services.

Opportunity Lost – to retain or win customers, failure to establish rapport, ignoring customers, unfriendliness and rudeness.

Errors - in the service transaction, product defects in the product-service bundle, lost or damaged goods.

recommendation and conclusion
Recommendation and Conclusion

Literature abounds with examples of astonishing improvements. These improvements are being made in manufacturing companies, hospitals, telecommunications companies, government agencies at every level, all types of service companies, and in schools

Total quality management is an energetic activity--that of continuous process improvement. The five important factors for continuous process improvement are honesty and integrity, shared vision of all stakeholders, patience, commitment, and TQM theory.

Knowledge exploitation. It is surprising to find that HEI do not use their knowledge base to improve processes. For example, engineers do not use engineering principles, statisticians often do not use statistics, and scientists often do not use the scientific methods.


Also, most people within an organization have knowledge of where the problems exist and can resolve them, but often policy and procedure inhibit improvement. HEI’s need to interrogate their knowledge base to improve the organisation. HEI’s understand the importance of people, creating knowledge, and striving for continuous improvement. It is imperative that HEI’s practice what they preach by staring today what should have started decades ago. This should provide significant improvements in our endeavour for excellence