Lean Six Sigma in Higher Education

Lean Six Sigma and higher education may seem mismatched at first. The needs of business, manufacturing, or customer service are different from a higher education institution. It has been said the most optimum way for a university to function is to let the students learn and the teachers teach. However, a closer look at higher education shows that at its core is a business that delivers a service or product to a customer – the students. With a fresh look, you will see that Lean Six Sigma methodologies are ideally suited for the higher education industry. As with all applications of the practice, the fundamentals and tools should be adapted to fit the situation’s specific needs. 

As higher education moves forward and finds new ways to serve the students, so does the need for a fresh approach to efficient, cost-effective, quality education delivery. Institutions of higher learning should look at applying Lean Six Sigma methodologies to the following processes:

Student Recruitment – Identifying and targeting students on a global scale who meet the educational and cultural identity of the institution.

Admissions & Scholarships – Streamlining and optimizing the admissions process to meet the student’s unique needs, reducing excessive red tape and repetitive processes, including qualification for scholarships. 

Administrative – This is a broad area of focus, which can include procurement, building services, food services, administrative operations, and other support services.

Student & Staff Satisfaction – Just like any other service delivery operation, the genuine satisfaction of both students and staff is the true measure of success. Using Voice of the Customer (VOC) practices, the institution can easily understand the effectiveness of its programs.

Of course, these focus areas complement the institution’s educational and research programs, which can benefit from applying the Lean Six Sigma methodologies. Optimizing academics and research can truly help students and staff, improving the institution’s quality. These programs must also have the support of champions in the institution to be committed to moving forward with the quality improvement process.


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