R. Pilkauskaite-Valickiene, A. Valickas

Mykolas Romeris University (LITHUANIA)
During the last decade researchers and practitioners are more and more involved in a discussion on Lean model appliance in different organizational settings (Bruce, Daly, & Towers, 2004, Radnor & Osborne, 2013, etc.). Contemporary environment of higher education institutions is becoming challenging and many universities confront the problems of fluctuating support from the state; there is a growing trend to view higher education not as a societal good but as personal choice, therefore the number of students also fluctuates, the society demands greater public accountability for the money invested, also some business and political leaders with short term interests see higher education as training for the job. Recent changes to university funding from government in Lithuania, demographical situation (decreasing number of graduates from high school), and relatively high number of higher education institutions (colleges and universities) encounter authorities of higher education institutions with challenges how to improve quality not only in study programs but in overall management and how not to heighten but even reducing costs.

In this context, attempts have been made to transfer Lean principles and practice to the higher education sector. The main idea of Lean is the emphasis on the value, which is defined by the customer and is expressed in cost, quality, variety, and time. This is in high contradiction to traditional concept of the higher education institution. From the worldwide perspective, it can be noticed that results of trying to adapt Lean model in higher education institutions are very divers (Eagle &Brennan, 2007; O’Mahoney & Garavan, 2012; Qiunn, Lemay, Larsen, &Johnson, 2009; Thirkell & Ashman, 2014, etc.). A mainstream prescriptive discourse suggests that lean is diffusing into higher education environments, providing a much-needed rethink of traditional ways of working and stimulating radical performance improvements. However, extension of lean principles to higher education was not so widespread and fast as it could be expected taking into consideration the development of commodification in various spheres of the society. Thus, several questions can arise:
1) what features of Lean model can be adapted and explored in implementation of higher quality in higher education institutions in Lithuania,
2) what are the limitations and obstacles,
3) what strengths from different contexts (individual, community, organization, society, etc.) can be found as facilitators,
4) what weakness from different contexts can be found as obstacles for improvement.

This paper contributes to the debate by analyzing the limitations and perspectives of application of lean principles in the sphere of higher education. Research is based on the analysis of theoretical assumptions, secondary data and cases of application of lean principles in higher education institutions.