Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Teaching, Learning, and Leadership


Studies on the use of Total Quality Management (TQM) within higher education have primarily focused on the implementation of TQM as an institutional initiative. While TQM has been successful in business and industry and has seen some limited success in higher education, the most recent studies on its usein higher education indicate that it has not been successful institution-wide, and in many cases has been abandoned after two to three years. The problem, therefore, is one of a perceived need for continuous improvement in coupled with mixed results from previous attempts at implementation. This research study focused on higher education's use of continuous improvement methods; however, the focus was on specific departmental initiatives, rather than on institution-wide implementation.

This study surveyed directors in departments of Financial Services, Facilities Management, Auxiliary Services, and Corporate Training within all public higher education institutions in Michigan. Out of a population of 148 directors surveyed, 54% responded to the survey. Directors of these departments were sent an e-mail with a link to a web-based survey. In addition to determining the level of continuous quality improvement (CQI) use in these departments, the survey also identified common drivers, obstacles, support factors, and outcomes derived from CQI. Key findings included that most had attempted CQI methods at some point in time and continued to pursue CQI. They were able to achieve the outcomes of improved service, quicker response, improved efficiencies, and increased financial returns, while at the same time seeing improved communications within their department and with the institution. These improvementscould be realized regardless of institution type, department type, or type of CQI method used, and in spite of the obstacles encountered.

In summary, TQM purists would suggest that TQM/CQI is no longer in place within higher education institutions as there is limited evidence of institution-wide continuing implementation. This study revealed, however, that department-based implementation is still in effect, and these departments continue to use CQI methods beyond the time period that current literature suggests it takes for higher education institutions to abandon CQI.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access