This study was aimed to explain the differentiations of the educational programs at Mekelle University Ethiopia, and the SPSU was taken as an example. The SPSU was an academic unit, which in the meantime differentiated into four educational programs namely psychology, institute of pedagogical sciences, history and cultural studies and civics and ethics. Particularly, it aimed to address the following questions: What were the factors that explained the differentiations of SPSU; were there some challenges during the differentiations of the SPSU, If so, how are these challenges explained? And, what are the consequences of the differentiations of the SPSU to the relationship between teaching and research?
Semi-structured interview and document analysis were used to collect the data. The semi-structured interview was carried out with four participants, one from each differentiated educational program. All of the participants were academic staff in the respective educational programs. And, three of the participants were interviewed face-to-face, while the one was interviewed on Skype. A narrative qualitative data analysis technique was used to analyze the data collected through the interviews and documents.
The study found that, the national and institutional factors explained the differentiations of the SPSU. The national factors were: the increase in the numbers of the higher education students, the ‘seventy’ versus ‘thirty’ programs mix in students’ enrollment, the introductions of the ‘added-on’ teacher education policy and business processes reengineering. In addition, institutional factors such as, the Mekelle University’s twenty years strategic plan and demand of the academic staff to establish an independent educational program had explained the differentiations of the SPSU.
Further, during the differentiations of the SPSU, there were challenges related with divisions of the academic staff and courses were challenging. These problems were seemingly resulted from the overlapped knowledge territories of the differentiated subunits.
Finally, the academic staff perceived that, even though the relationship between teaching and research is practically determined by the time, fund and teachers’ commitment, the differentiations of their educational programs has paved a way to development of some conditions that enhance the relationship between teaching and research. Among which are, with differentiations, the teachers have got the possibility to develop and update their teaching methods, course contents. Moreover, the differentiation has also enabled them to have students and to be represented as independent educational programs in the share for the institutional and national budgets for teaching and research.