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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Professor Adam Habib has resigned from Wits University to take up a cushy job in London

Charles Molele

Professor Adam Habib, Vice Chancellor of Wits University, has resigned. This follows his appointment as director School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, United Kingdom.

Habib, who has led Wits University since 2013, will step down from his current role in December and join SOAS in January 2021.

He will succeed Baroness Amos, who is set to become master of the University College, Oxford, in August this year.

“I was approached to apply for the SOAS position at the end of last year. I threw my hat into the ring and was surprised when they offered me the post. After much deliberation with my family and considerable engagement with the Wits Council and the Executive, I have agreed to accept the offer. My decision was not made lightly – I am a proud leader and champion of Wits University and South Africa, and will continue to fly these flags high,” said Habib in a statement.

“I have committed to strengthening ties between the South African and UK higher education sectors in my new role.”

Habib implemented the Wits 2022 Strategy.

Under his leadership, Wits has exceeded in all indicators – Wits’ research output has increased by more than 60% (in quality, international journals), throughput rates are up (more students are passing) and a record number of students have graduated in recent years.

Wits University’s Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct has also flourished under his leadership, Wits’ finances are stable and it has strong, independent governance structures in place.

“Wits has recorded significant achievements in the last seven years,” added Habib.

“In 2019 we graduated over 9 500 students, the most in the University’s history. In line with the Wits’ aim of becoming an increasingly postgraduate university, we enrolled 15 000 postgraduate students last year. Our research outputs have increased from 1 200 units in 2013 to just under 2 000 in 2020, without compromising on quality – about 90% of our papers are published in peer-reviewed international journals – these are phenomenal achievements for any university, and I will leave Wits in a strong position.”

Mr Isaac Shongwe, the Chairperson of Wits University’s Council said about Habib’ resignation and appointment at SOAS University of Londo: “Please join me in congratulating Professor Adam Habib on his appointment. He is a dynamic leader, who has without a doubt made a significant contribution to Wits and the higher education sector, both locally and abroad. His fearless, forthright commentary and his general robustness has left our University, and South Africa, a richer intellectual space, for which we are grateful.”

According to Times Higher Education, Habib will face formidable challenges at SOAS, which describes itself as the world’s leading institution for the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Last month the institution introduced restrictions on academic research leave, in a bid to save spending on temporary replacement staff.

In May 2019, Times Higher Education reported that the school’s director, Baroness Amos, had told trustees that the Bloomsbury institution would “exhaust [its] cash reserves” by 2021-22 unless it took action. It returned a £1.2 million deficit in its 2017-18 accounts.

Last August, SOAS said acceptances of new undergraduates had fallen by 8 per cent over the past two years, but claimed that its “finances are healthy” with a projected surplus of 3 per cent in 2022-23.

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