This paper investigates the potential causes behind student dropouts in higher education institutions (HEIs), and explores the use of Lean Six Sigma (LSS) tools in reducing dropout rates. This qualitative study used 12 semi-structured interviews with university employees (n = 9) and LSS experts (n = 3), in order to understand the complexity of the student dropout phenomenon and the role of various LSS tools in reducing the dropout rates. Analysis revealed that in order to develop a typology of student dropouts, HEIs have to maintain detailed records and sensitise relevant authorities about the impact of a student’s dropout decision. Though the small number of semi-structured interviews is a limitation of the study, the revelations of HEIs authorities and LSS experts have given new impetus to look at and take action on the issue of student dropouts in HEIs. © 2018, © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.