J.J. Tarí, S. de Juana Espinosa

University of Alicante (SPAIN)
Self-assessment processes have been successfully adopted for the achievement of continuous improvement in manufacturing and service organisations, both in the private and in the public sector. In the case of higher education institutions (HEIs), although there are an increasing number of universities adopting self-assessment and several studies have analysed self-assessment in HEIs, few studies have examined the difficulties, benefits and success factors in HEIs.

The aim of this paper is to develop case studies in order to examine the difficulties, benefits and success factors in self-assessment processes and the importance of follow-up to facilitate the success of this process in a Spanish context. Thus, the research questions are:
1. What are the difficulties, benefits and success factors in a self-assessment process?
2. Is follow-up the key to success?

The paper uses the case study methodology to answer these two questions. The interest here is to show the results from 10 cases using quantitative and qualitative evidence.

First, based on qualitative data (direct observations, interviews with team members and services documents) the findings show the steps followed by each service to conduct self-assessment.

Second, based on qualitative and quantitative data (interviews supported by the questionnaire) several issues may be observed related to difficulties, benefits and success factors in the 10 services analysed. Regarding the difficulties, in most of the services the difficulties were the lack of time and the difficulty to implement the improvement actions. Other problems that arose during the exercise in some services based on team members were: not knowing where to start and the lack of resources.

As for the importance the team members attached to these difficulties, the most important one was the lack of commitment by University management in all services, followed by the time devoted to the process and the lack of support by the quality area and the difficulty in implementing improvement actions.

Concerning the benefits obtained, the answers to the questionnaire answered by the team members show that the greatest benefits were identifying improvement actions and implementing such actions, in order to improve the quality of the service. Other benefits identified by team members were increased knowledge of the quality philosophy, staff involvement in service improvement and staff awareness of the importance of quality.

As for the success factors, the team members considered that all the factors analysed are important for the success of the process. In addition, all services suggested that the follow-up is key to ensure the implementation of the improvement actions and the success of the whole process. Based on analyses of the follow-up report that each service sent to the top manager, the percentage of implementation can be observed of each of the improvement actions for the 10 services analysed. The data show, for each of the ten services analysed, the percentage and the number of improvement actions that have been implemented by 75%, by 25-75%, and by less than 25%.