CDTL    Publications    About
Jan 1997 Vol. 1   No. 1

........   TQM  ........
Total Quality Management
Mr Alan Maley

CDTL organised a seminar/dialogue session in July to address the emergence of TQM in the world of academia. The guest speaker was Mr Alan Maley. Prior to joining NUS as a Senior Fellow, he was Director General of the Bell Educational Trust in Cambridge, and in that capacity, gained considerable experience with quality management. Highlights from his talk are reported below.

                      We judge ourselves mostly by our intentions,
                      but Others judge us mostly by our actions.
                              (Harvey 8 Lucas, 1993)

A Brief History of TQM

Total Quality Management, or TQM for short, has become the catch phrase of the 90's. It began in the manufacturing sector with the purpose of improving customer satisfaction and keeping production costs continually low.It is a management system that focuses on people and has made inroads into the service sector and more recently, into the educational field. TQM has been adopted by numerous bodies for various reasons, but all believe it will provide an opportunity for growth and give them the competitive edge.

Implementation Implications

Implementing new ideas or management styles is never easy. The introduction and adoption of TQM in the workplace inevitably raise some concerns.

  • Do people believe in the possibility of continuous improvement at both personal and institutional levels?
  • Do people understand the aims and objectives of TQM and will there be a commitment at all levels to make it work?
  • How will it affect the machinations of the work environment and people's attitudes and perceptions?
  • Attention must be paid to all aspects of TQM; this takes time and effort.
  • Effective communication is imperative at all levels; the right people must get the right information at the right time.
  • Prevention, not correction, will become the order of the day; people will have to get it right the first time.
  • Documentation is crucial to ensure clarity of standards and as a means of evaluation and appraisal.
  • Concentration on customers' needs means a focus on feedback.
  • People will require time to adjust to the changes TQM brings.

Implications in Academic Settings

The emergence of TQM in academia has led to a reassessment of existing practices. For example, in its original form, TQM aims to increase customer satisfaction and keep costs low. In the academic setting, TQM places greater emphasis on quality teaching than on low costs. Other issues include the following.

  • Customer Satisfaction - Students. Review courses for relevance, content and usefulness. Students' academic needs must be met.
  • Customer Satisfaction - Others. Employers hiring NUS graduates must be satisfied with them. In addition, the government and parents also expect certain standards to be met.
  • Customer Satisfaction - Staff The needs of internal customers (e.g., co-workers and colleagues) should also be considered. In this instance, TQM deals more with interpersonal dynamics like team spirit and synergy.
  • Quality Teaching - This is difficult to define, measure and quantify. Standards, teaching methods, research output and other academic activities cannot be sufficiently graded to arrive at a working definition of "quality". At best, long-term studies of results and monitoring can help establish some means of measurement.
  • Cost - Expenditure is another consideration. Current practices should be assessed to increase effectiveness and lower costs.

Implementation Concerns

Some difficulties may arise as TQM exerts a greater degree of influence in academia. For example, in industry, the product is important but education is a process, not a product. Also, start-up and implementation costs will be quite staggering and require plenty of time and effort. The transition period will force people out of their comfort zone, causing resentment and resistance to TQM. The increase in bureaucracy could dampen professional interest as an endless flow of paper work becomes a turn off. Lecturers will have to wrestle with the "customer is always right" maxim, especially when what students want (e.g., more holidays and fewer exams) is not what they need. To gauge quality teaching, the practical but controversial method has to be employed - measure quantity. And finally, changes may only be superficial, not extending beyond hype and jargon.




Post-secondary Education in the 21st Century
Total Quality Management

CDTL Director's Message

Thumbs Up for Project Work

Educational Television (SCV)

Interfacing with Multimedia Applications

The Effective Student

Video TeleConferencing

Lecture On-line

Email Editors

© 2012 CDTLink is published by the Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning. Reproduction in whole or in part of any material in this publication without the written permission of CDTL is expressly prohibited. The views expressed or implied in CDTLink do not necessarily reflect the views of CDTL.