Analytic Quality Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-21, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 22 September, 2021 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2021.


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Quality management

core definition

Quality management is the process, supported by policies and systems, used by an institution to maintain and enhance the quality of education experienced by its students and of the research undertaken by its staff.

explanatory context


analytical review

According to the Chartered Quality Institute (CQI, 2012):

Quality management is an organisation-wide approach to understanding precisely what customers need and consistently delivering accurate solutions within budget, on time and with the minimum loss to society.

Csizmadia (2006, pp. 24–5) writes:

The term quality management refers to the policies, systems and processes designed to ensure the maintenance and enhancement of quality within an institution. As ISO 8402 defined, quality management is “that aspect of overall management function that determines and implements the quality policy (i.e. intentions and direction of the organisation)”. Thus quality management may be described by concepts, instruments and techniques used in this field. Quality management is usually thought of, however, as a means to an end, not an end in itself. To be more precise I should perhaps say that it is potentially a means to multiple ends. These include improving the quality of institutional services, making the operations of organisations more transparent and accountable and improving their performance. This is, however, only one possible operationalisation of the concept of quality management because if people do not agree on one definition of quality, this has consequences on what they think quality management should do.

Quality management, in the higher education context, also covers the quality terminology: control, assurance and improvement. It encompasses those processes, “by which an institution discharges its corporate responsibility for articulating, maintaining and enhancing the academic standards of those activities for which it is responsible” (HEQC, 1995, p. 3) and ensures that these processes are performed efficiently and effectively. Quality management has made issues about academic standards explicit. Academic standards are those expectations which have been established for students to meet, and institutional quality assurance procedures are the means by which institutions can demonstrate to those with an interest in higher education (e.g. students, employers of graduates and government) whether or not they are meeting those standards and expectations. Quality management also encompasses those external processes which have been developed to account for the public funds they receive. These include the processes operated by the government and its agencies. .

University of Bath (2012):

Quality management is the term we use to describe the processes by which the University assures itself that its standards are maintained and the quality of education experienced by our students are maintained and enhanced

University of Bath (2019):

The University's principles and processes for assuring itself that academic standards and quality of our education are maintained and enhanced.

Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen (2011, p. 22) adopted the following definition of quality management:

Quality management is the ongoing assessment, monitoring and improvement of the quality of teaching, learning and research in a methodical and cyclical manner. The purpose of having a quality management system is that it allows Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen to revise and update its policies based on the results of a range of evaluations and analyses. For this to be effective, it is essential that there is an exchange with and between teaching staff, students, the regional and (inter)national professional field and alumni.

Vlăsceanu et al. (2004, p. 49–50) define quality management as follows:

An aggregate of measures taken regularly at system or institutional level in order to assure the quality of higher education with an emphasis on improving quality as a whole. As a generic term, it covers all activities that ensure fulfillment of the quality policy and the quality objectives and responsibilities and implements them through quality planning, quality control, quality assurance, and quality improvement mechanisms.

Total Quality Management (TQM): A particularly influential comprehensive approach to quality management that places emphasis on factors such as continuous improvement, customer focus, strategic management, need for explicit systems to assure quality of higher education, and a view of leadership and supervision that stresses employee empowerment and delegation. Such an approach to quality management emphasizes assessment that is undertaken against: (i) defined objectives or standards (set internally or by external funding bodies); (ii) measures of customer satisfaction; (iii) expert and professional judgment; and (iv) comparator organizations. TQM is considered to have a close conceptual and philosophical link with benchmarking methodologies. Such an approach has been mostly applied in the economic sector of societies, being less used in the academic world.

The Council on Higher Education, Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC, 2004, p. 28) states:

Quality management: Institutional arrangements for assuring, supporting, developing and enhancing, and monitoring the quality of teaching and learning, research and community engagement.

Tempus (2001) in the Glossary states:

Quality management: a set of actions of the general management function which determines the quality policy, aims and responsibilities and realises them within the framework of quality by planning, control, ensuring and improving the quality.

Total Quality Management: common approach to implementation of the programmes for quality improvement within an organisation; the way of managing the organisation focused on quality, based on participation from all the members of the organisation fulfilling the users’ needs and aiming at long term success and well being of all the members of the organisation and the social community

A generic definition of quality management systems found on various websites (including (undated)) is:

The Quality Management System (QMS) can be defined as a set of policies, processes and procedures required for planning and execution (production / development / service) in the core business area of an organization. QMS integrates the various internal processes within the organization and intends to provide a process approach for project execution. QMS enables the organizations to identify, measure, control and improve the various core business processes that will ultimately lead to improved business performance.

associated issues

The relevance of total quality management

There has been considerable discussion about the applicability of total quality management techniques (used in industry) to the higher education setting. In the review of the contributions in the first 15 years of the international journal Quality in Higher Education, Harvey and Williams (2010) discuss the contributions on industrial models of quality, including total quality management:

Several articles explored the applicability of industrial models to higher education. Most focused on aspects of total quality management (TQM). Harvey (1995a) critiqued the approach and argued that it failed to address fundamental issues of educational quality.

Barrett (1996), focusing on a book by Seymour, which had wide currency in the United States, argued that total quality management was inapplicable to higher education. He critiqued the notion of the student as customer and warned against injudiciously transferring ideas about quality from business to the realm of education, which inter alia overlooked political overtones of the term ‘Total Quality’. In the same issue Winchip (1996) explored the possible adaptability of Deming’s management philosophy to higher education institutions. Her empirical study suggested that, with limitations, five major Deming themes are adaptable to higher education: purpose; co-operative systems; improvement; leadership; and methods-processes. Moon and Geall (1996) in a Forum piece in the same issue critiqued what they called two ends of the love-hate spectrum of TQM, attacking both Barretts’s and Winchip’s contributions as rhetoric devoid of evidence. The former was accused of an overwhelming prejudice about the superiority and relevance of donnish knowledge and the latter for being not so much an exploration of the relevance of TQM for education as an attempt to fit education into TQM. Moon and Geall concluded that it is time to abandon dogmatic positions, prejudical ranting and blind adherence to doctrine. They argued that TQM has been displaced, in higher education, by continuous quality improvement, which is more than a terminological revision. The conceptual change takes the emphasis away from customer, product and the role of management to the ownership and control of an improvement agenda by those, in education, who can effect real change: teaching staff and students. Hansen and Jackson (1996) subsequently suggested that a total quality improvement approach could be applied to the classroom situation, as discussed in Part Two (Harvey and Williams, 2010b).

De Jager and Nieuwenhuis (2005) focused on the linkages between TQM and the outcomes-based approach in South African higher education. They claimed that quality assurance in some academic programmes is based on the TQM model because of the strong focus on the employers of graduates. Taking a particular view of TQM, they argued that in the TQM approach learners are centralised in the learning process and therefore become effective partners in the process. This matches an outcomes-based approach that is moving away from the textbook and lecturer-centred approach to a learner-centred approach. They concluded that the linkages between TQM and outcomes-based education indicate that there exist common principles related to each.

Houston (2007) argued that TQM is a poor fit with higher education and can only be made to fit by major reshaping either of TQM to a more appropriate methodology (and hence not TQM), or of higher education to an image of organisation that fits TQM. He revisited longstanding concerns about multiple aspects of TQM from a critical systems perspective. He pointed to the importance of purpose, language, values and boundary judgements and images of organisations in the determining the transferability of concepts and methods for quality between organisational types. The language, concepts and tools of TQM, while superficially attractive, on closer examination do not match the substance of higher education. In a subsequent paper, Houston, Robertson and Prebble (2008) examined the potential of critical systems thinking enacted through Total Systems Intervention to explore quality and to promote improvement in a university academic department. Critical systems approaches, building on commitments to the systems idea, sociological awareness, methodological pluralism and human improvement can help to structure problems as a precursor to problem solving. Total Systems Intervention was used initially to structure the ‘quality problem’ for an academic unit within a university in New Zealand from the perspective of internal stakeholders. For staff and student participants, the quality problem mainly related to promoting learning. Analysis and reflection on the problem and local context drawing on systems methodologies identified underlying tensions and issues and shaped specific interventions for improvement in learning. A systemic perspective on quality and critical systems approaches are likely to be of value in encouraging debate and promoting different interventions for improving quality.

Lundquist (1996), earlier, had reported a study of the possibilities of using the Swedish Quality Award (SQA) in higher education. Results indicated that the SQA (which is similar to the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award and to the European Quality Award) could provide an effective way to reach a general picture of an institution and be a basis for further quality improvements.

related areas

See also


quality assurance


Barrett, R., 1996, ‘‘Quality’ and the abolition of standards: arguments against some American prescriptions for the improvement of higher education’, Quality in Higher Education, 2(3), pp. 201–210.

Chartered Quality Institute (CQI), 2012, What is quality?, available at, accessed 12 September 2012, page not available 9 January 2017.

Council on Higher Education, Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC), 2004, Criteria for Institutional Audits, April. Pretoria, Council on Higher Education.

Csizmadi, T.G, 2006, Quality Management In Hungarian Higher Education; Organisational responses to governmental policy. Thesis, University of Twente, available at, accessed 11 September 2012, still available 1 July 2019.

De Jager, H.J. and Nieuwenhuis, F.J. 2005, ‘Linkages between total quality management and the outcomes-based approach in an education environment’, Quality in Higher Education, 11(3), pp. 251–260.

Hansen, W.L. and Jackson, M., 1996, ‘Total quality improvement in the classroom’, Quality in Higher Education, 2(3), pp. 211–217.

Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen, 2011, European Master in Social Work: Information dossier for Limited Initial Accreditation, available at, accessed 11 September 2012, page not available 9 January 2017.

Harvey, L., 1995a, ‘Beyond TQM’, Quality in Higher Education, 1(2), pp. 123–146. Available here.

Harvey, L. and Williams, J. 2010, 'Fifteen Years of Quality in Higher Education', Quality in Higher Education, 16(1), pp. 4–36.   Available here.

Harvey, L. and Williams, J. 2010b, 'Fifteen Years of Quality in Higher Education, part 2', Quality in Higher Education, 16(2), pp. 81–113. Available here.

Houston, D., 2007, ‘TQM and higher education: a critical systems perspective on fitness for purpose’, Quality in Higher Education, 13(1), pp. 3–17.

Houston, D., Robertson, T and Prebble, T., 2008, ‘Exploring quality in a university department: perspectives and meanings’, Quality in Higher Education, 14(3), pp. 209–223.

Lundquist, R., 1996, ‘Using a quality award for self-assessments in higher education’, Quality in Higher Education, 2(2), pp. 105–116.

Moon, S. and Geall, V., 1996, ‘Total quality management: disciples and detractors’, Quality in Higher Education, 2(3), pp. 271–273.

Tempus, 2001, Glossary of the Terms related to Quality Assurance Development of Quality Assurance System in Higher Education (QUASYS) Tempus Joint European Project, UM JEP-16015-2001, accessed 3 August 2008, not available 29 January 2011.

University of Bath, 2012, Quality management: What is it?, available at, accessed 12 September 2012, not available 1 July 2019.

University of Bath, 2012, Quality management: What is it?, available at, accessed 1 July 2019.

Validation.i.e (undated), available at, accessed 9 October 2012, page not available 9 January 2017.

Vlãsceanu, L., Grünberg, L., and Pârlea, D., 2004, Quality Assurance and Accreditation: A Glossary of Basic Terms and Definitions (Bucharest, UNESCO-CEPES) Papers on Higher Education.

Winchip, S.M., 1996, ‘Analysis of the adaptability of W. Edwards Deming’s management philosophy to institutions of higher education’, Quality in Higher Education, 2(3), pp. 219–236.

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2021

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