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Exploring the role of organizational culture on research performance in Ethiopian public universities from faculty's perspective: the case of Mekelle University

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Exploring the role of organizational culture on research performance in Ethiopian public universities from faculty's perspective: the case of Mekelle University

As modern-day universities assumed the role as pathways to knowledge society and economy, research productivity becomes an indicator for institutional prestige. Big or small, teaching-oriented or otherwise, almost all kinds of universities of this age attempt to involve in research activities. However, Ethiopian universities are allegedly unable to develop a productive research culture to live up to expectations. The roles of faculty members in contributing to the knowledge production particularly in the case university often hampered by such factors as poor research capability and weak research culture. Although initiatives are being taken by the government and the university to invigorate research productivity, the participation of faculty members is inadequate. Therefore, this study picked organisational culture (OC) to investigate why research is accorded insufficient attention at Mekelle University (MU). The OC perspective is chosen because culture is holistic and pivotal for a coherent interpretation of what appears to be atomistic events and factors in isolation. The study highlights the perceptions of faculty members of MU towards the role of OC in their research performance. It employed qualitative methodology and accompanying data collection methods, namely individual interviews and document analysis. Edgar Schein’s levels of culture and William Tierney’s OC dimensions are used as an analytical framework. The study found that different OC typologies describe MU’s OC or no dominant culture that guides the behaviour of academics is detected. The findings of the study, moreover, reveal that the overall OC of the university has decisive roles in the research performance of faculty members. Without research-friendly OC, faculty members’ interest in research and innate scientific ability is not enough to improve research performance. It is believed that the general OC guides the actions of the faculty (i.e. what issues to focus on and how). The study also discerns a mismatch between the research aspirations, strategies and propositions of the university and the espoused values and assumptions of faculty members. Furthermore, the study analysed the views towards the role of disciplinary differences in research performance. Here, two views standout. In one group, it is argued that the core reasons for performance variation among faculty members are attributed to situational factors. By contrast, there is a view that differences in style, processes, methods and techniques of researching have significant roles in the research performance of faculty members. In sum, despite MU aspires to be a centre of excellence in research, the perception of the faculty and the practice on the ground show that research is not yet an institutional priority compared to other activities of the university.

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