The origins of total quality management (TQM) in manufacturing and its popular adoption as a panacea or fad have combined to limit its acceptability in higher education institutions (HEIs). A brief analysis of the characteristics of TQM shows the extent to which it can be implemented in HEIs. Many objectives of TQM are compatible with the work of HEIs which have used them – consciously or unconsciously – in their operations and in response to external quality assessment and audit. Nevertheless, TQM continues to be viewed by many as inappropriate to the culture of HEIs. A case study of one faculty – the Management School of Lancaster University – shows that successful academic innovation can be compatible with TQ principles. Such principles were not applied rigidly or in ways which ran counter to the established culture of an academic organization.
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