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Global education: using lean tools to explore new opportunities

Marvin E. Gonzalez (Department of Supply Chain and Information Management, College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, USA)
Gioconda Quesada (Department of Supply Chain and Information Management, College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, USA)
Juan Luis Martinez (Department of Marketing, Instituto de Empresa, Madrid, Spain)
Sebastian Gonzalez-Cordoba (School of International Business Administration, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, Shanghai, China)

Journal of International Education in Business

ISSN: 2046-469X

Article publication date: 12 August 2019

Issue publication date: 20 May 2021




As markets, economies and institutions are increasingly globalized, there is a growing understanding of the need to introduce intercultural learning alongside business learning. Participating in a study abroad program is potentially one of the most important experiences for any college student. Such programs provide students the opportunity to immerse themselves in different cultures and gain new perspectives. The purpose of this paper is threefold: to identify the main factors that students consider when selecting a program; to integrate quality function deployment (QFD), benchmarking and Hoshin Kanri in the analysis of student expectations and to examine the implications for research and practice.


The study was based on primary data collected from 180 students at four universities. To design an approach that helps students in the selection of a program that best satisfies their expectations, a self-designed questionnaire was used for data collection. The data were analyzed using the techniques of QFD/benchmarking. Finally, a long-term strategy is proposed based on the Hoshin Kanri theory.


The great variability in student expectations presents a challenge in designing a methodology of selection; however, it does help in identifying the most important student expectations. A key, balanced relationship among academic quality, having fun and cost cannot be ignored in this study because they represent the factors that are altogether influential in the decision to study abroad. In the current literature, the key variables of study abroad programs are discussed; however, most studies fail to incorporate student expectations. This paper will fill this gap by incorporating both key academic variables and the voice of the customer (student).

Research limitations/implications

Given the diversity of the population, the authors developed several methodologies to standardize the array of student responses to the questionnaire. Using this standardization along with several total quality management (TQM) tools allows us to simplify and categorize the different student expectations. The gathering of students’ expectations directly provided by students (voice of the customer) allows international programs to focus on the real problems and expectations that have been acknowledged, thus yielding student satisfaction with their experience, most importantly, in their field of study.

Practical implications

For universities, the current study identifies new means by which to improve the quality of international programs with the use of TQM tools including QFD, benchmarking and the Hoshin Kanri Planning Process with an evidence-based real case.


This paper presents a conclusive application of QFD, benchmarking and Hoshin Kanri and an analysis of how these tools can help international programs with future improvements incorporating the needs of students in their programs. To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first application of these techniques to improve the international experience for business undergraduate students.



Gonzalez, M.E., Quesada, G., Martinez, J.L. and Gonzalez-Cordoba, S. (2021), "Global education: using lean tools to explore new opportunities", Journal of International Education in Business, Vol. 14 No. 1, pp. 37-58.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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