An empirical study into the use of 7 quality control tools in higher education institutions (HEIs)

Swati Mathur, Jiju Antony, McDermott Olivia, Lizarelli Fabiane Letícia, Bhat Shreeranga, Jayaraman Raja, Chakraborty Ayon

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Scopus citations


    Purpose: The main purpose of this study is to revisit Ishikawa's statement: “95% of problems in processes can be accomplished using the original 7 Quality Control (QC) tools”. The paper critically investigates the validity of this statement in higher education institutions (HEIs). It involves analysis of the usage of the 7 QC tools and identifying the barriers, benefits, challenges and critical success factors (CSFs) for the application of the 7 QC tools in a HEI setting. Design/methodology/approach: An online survey instrument was developed, and as this is a global study, survey participants were contacted via social networks such as LinkedIn. Target respondents were HEIs educators or professionals who are knowledgeable about the 7 QC tools promulgated by Dr Ishikawa. Professionals who work in administrative sectors, such as libraries, information technology and human resources were included in the study. A number of academics who teach the 7 basic tools of QC were also included in the study. The survey link was sent to over 200 educators and professionals and 76 complete responses were obtained. Findings: The primary finding of this study shows that the diffusion of seven QC tools is not widespread in the context of HEIs. Less than 8% of the respondents believe that more than 90% of process problems can be solved by applying the 7 QC tools. These numbers show that modern-quality problems may need more than the 7 basic QC basic tools and there may be a need to revisit the role and contribution of these tools to solve problems in the higher education sector. Tools such as Pareto chart and cause and effect diagram have been widely used in the context of HEIs. The most important barriers highlighted are related to the lack of knowledge about the benefits and about how and when to apply these tools. Among the challenges are the “lack of knowledge of the tools and their applications” and “lack of training in the use of the tools”. The main benefits mentioned by the respondents were “the identification of areas for improvement, problem definition, measurement, and analysis”. According to this study, the most important factors critical for the success of the initiative were “management support”, “widespread training” and “having a continuous improvement program in place”. Research limitations/implications: The exploratory study provides an initial understanding about the 7 QC tools application in HEIs, and their benefits, challenges and critical success factors, which can act as guidelines for implementation in HEIs. Surveys alone cannot provide deeper insights into the status of the application of 7 QC tools in HEIs, and therefore qualitative studies in the form of semi-structured interviews should be carried out in the future. Originality/value: This article contributes with an exploratory empirical study on the extent of the use of 7 QC tools in the university processes. The authors claim that this is the first empirical study looking into the use of the 7 QC tools in the university sector.

    Original languageBritish English
    JournalTQM Journal
    StateAccepted/In press - 2022


    • 7 quality control tools
    • Higher education institutions (HEIs)
    • Ishikawa
    • Quality improvement
    • Survey


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