Specialist Diploma in Quality Management
Lean Healthcare (Black Belt)

(Postgraduate NFQ Level 9) (On-line / Distance Learning)


Please note: all applications for this course will go through the Lean Systems Course application link. Early in the semester you will be asked to clarify which stream you will be choosing, i.e the Lean Enterprise Stream, or the Lean Healthcare Stream.


Course Overview:

The Irish Community and Voluntary sector and the Healthcare system are subject to many challenges as they work to provide services to their clients while operating under reduced budget and increased calls to improve efficiency and effectiveness. The application of Lean Thinking has the potential to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the system for all parties involved - clients, patients, healthcare professionals and service providers, and by reducing costs and getting the best from resource use.


The University of Limerick in collaboration with the Irish Society for Quality and Safety in Healthcare, The Adelaide, Meath and National Children’s Hospitals at Tallaght and the Bon Secours Hospital Group have come together to develop an innovative, distance education, part-time programme which will allow participants to put Lean thinking into practice in Irish Community and Voluntary sector and the Healthcare system.


The Lean Health Systems Diploma is a sector specific roll-out of the highly successful Specialist Diploma - Lean Systems. Over 150 companies and 500 participants have undertaken the course since it first started in 2006.


The diploma will provide healthcare professionals and community & voluntary organisation service providers' education and practical application to a Black Belt level in Lean. Participants will learn and apply client-centred, lean process thinking to drive improvement with measureable results within their organisations. A practical project will form a key element of the programme, ensuring the integration of the various concepts in the participants' workplace.


This project will need to result in significant improvements for participating healthcare units.


This programme forms part of the MSc in Strategic Quality Management Lean Sigma Systems.  Those who have completed this programme may continue on to the MSc.


Download the brochure here



This programme takes 9 months and is run over two semesters, each 15 weeks.


For Whom:

Community & Voluntary or Healthcare professionals who have responsibility for quality or continuous improvement within their organisation and those who wish to develop knowledge and skills in the area of Lean in the Community & Voluntary or Healthcare sector.


Entry Requirements:

Relevant primary degree (Level 8) or recognised professional qualification and 1-3 years relevant industrial experience.

In the situation where an applicant does not meet the minimum entry requirements above, an offer of a place on the course may be made in exceptional circumstances. The candidate will be required to provide a portfolio of evidence of prior qualifications quality management together with the application of learning or competence (e.g green/black belt project reports, reflective papers or journals). Two references from appropriate signatories in the candidate’s organisation will be accepted as evidence. Candidates may be required to attend an interview prior to enrolling on the programme.


Programme Structure:

The programme comprises three taught modules, a series of seminars and a company based project.

•Lean Thinking/Lean Tools 1
•Lean Thinking/Lean Tools 2
•Leadership and Change Management


In Context Project:

Programme completion requires a substantial application based project, reported in the form of management report. The expectation that the project would realise savings of at least €50,000 for the participant organisation. The project will require the application of the concepts covered in the course.  The output of the project should involve a significant benefit to the company.  The Student, Supervisor and Company will agree the success metric for the project as part of the topic selection process.


Examples of success metrics could include:


•the improvement of a specified performance indicator by an agreed amount.
•the quantifiable addition of value to process or service which was the focus of the project.
•a cost saving of the order of €30,000 which must be verified by the company, or in the case of a Small to Medium Enterprises, (SMEs, <250 employees), project savings must amount to 0.1% of annual turnover.


An example could be a kanban system in a pharmacy or supply store that could result in cost savings through inventory reduction to the value of €50,000, or an increase in machine efficiency by 5%, or a reduction process cycle time by 10%.


The University of Limerick and several leading Irish Hospitals designed this course to meet the standards of a black belt. While there is no single authority that issues black belts in Lean or Six Sigma the industry group and university carried out extensive research in designing the course to ensure that the course met the general standards that are expected of a black belt holder.


Black Belt projects are expected to save in the region of €50,000 for their organisation. A Black Belt holder is expected to be competent in the tools and techniques to organise and implement a project at this level.

Successful participants will receive a letter from the University of Limerick stating that their capability is at black belt level.



Delivery is a hybrid of traditional distance education and online learning together with a number of on-campus tutorials (approx. 3 Saturdays per semester). In addition, there are on-line discussions moderated by a subject matter expert on elements of each module to reinforce the learning and maximise the benefit of the programme for participants.

Tutorials are held at the University of Limerick campus.


Programme Fees:

Fees for the programme are €5,250, payable in 2 equal instalments.



Please visit the Application page to read detailed guidelines on how to successfully apply.


N.B. - We recommend that prospective students for any ULearning programmes visit the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page. For any queries which are not addressed in the FAQ please do not hesitate to email ulearning@ul.ie or call 061 213360.


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