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Total quality management (TQM) aspires to customer satisfaction through the continual improvement of processes, products, and services. TQM has been widely applied in business and industry, but less so in higher education. One reason may be the problems associated in defining the customer in higher education. On the other hand, stakeholder theory holds that businesses must create value for a wide variety of stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, employees, and the community. It is widely recognized that higher education has many stakeholders, including students, faculty, staff, employers, and the community. Thus, a stakeholder-based TQM may be more relevant for higher education than a customer-based approach.

The purpose of this study was to use an adapted instrument to measure the stakeholder-mindset of faculty towards two stakeholder groups—their students and their students’ future employers. In business, customer-mindset refers to an attitude where employees are focused on understanding, satisfying, and providing value to customers. The customer-mindset instrument (CMSI), which was developed by Kennedy et al. (2002) to measure this mindset, was applied by Guilbault (2010) to higher education, with faculty functioning as employees and students as customers. However, the identification of student-as-customer is not universally accepted in higher education. The present study replaced a customer-centric approach with a stakeholder-oriented one. Although higher education has many stakeholders, this study focused on two groups—students and their future employers. To measure the mindset of faculty toward these groups, the CMSI was adapted into two instruments, the stakeholder-mindset instrument with students as stakeholders (SMSI-S), and the stakeholder-mindset instrument with students’ future employers as stakeholders (SMSI-E). The survey was administered at a public institution with a Carnegie classification of Master’s College and University (medium programs), and it was distributed to faculty within three colleges: Arts and Letters, Science and Mathematics, and Business. Three research questions were studied. First, could the CMSI be successfully adapted to measure stakeholder-mindset? Second, does stakeholder-mindset vary by academic college? Third, does stakeholder-mindset vary by teaching load?

The study found that both stakeholder-mindset instruments, SMSI-S and SMSI-E, met acceptable measures concerning unidimensionality, validity, and reliability, with the SMSI-S being less clear-cut concerning dimensionality. Both instruments were correlated with reported faculty behaviors. Faculty from Business scored significantly higher on the SMSI-E, on average, than faculty from Arts and Letters or Science and Mathematics. However, the stakeholder-mindset of faculty was not correlated with teaching load. Of the three pillars of stakeholder-mindset (understanding, providing value to, and satisfying stakeholders), faculty responses to satisfying stakeholders had the lowest means for both instruments.

Although higher education involves a complex web of stakeholder relationships, this study is the first to investigate the stakeholder-mindset of faculty in higher education. As such, it may help to provide a foundation for the application of both stakeholder theory and total quality management to higher education.


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
20 Jul 2022
1.15 MB



  • Advisor
    • Bob Michael, Deborah Richardson, Holly Verhasselt

  • Department
    • Education

  • Date submitted

    20 July 2022

  • Keywords