Wits principal to step down

Johannesburg – Wits University vice-chancellor Professor Adam Habib will step down at the end of December this year; and is expected to join the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London as a director from January next year.

  Habib said he was approached to apply for the position at the end of last year.

  Habib has been with the Johannesburg-based institution for the past seven years. “The decision was not easy, I am a proud leader of Wits University and South Africa, and will continue to fly these flags high,” he said.

  Habib added that in 2019 Wits University graduated over 9 500 students, the most in the University’s history. “In line with Wits’ aim of becoming an increasingly postgraduate university, we enrolled 15 000 postgraduate students last year. Our budgeted income increased from R2.4 billion in 2013 to R4 billion in 2018, some R500 million per annum above our research peers. This allowed investments in the academic programme by over 14% per annum, social investments in professional and support staff by a similar 14% and financial investment approximating 24% in student support,” he said.

  Habib added that he led an institution that was sometimes under attack from politicians and activists, who threatened and sometimes destroyed public institutions.

  “I cannot claim that we made the politicians and activists happy. However, we have done well as a result of the collective endeavours,” Habib said.

  Wits University spokesperson Shirona Patel said under Habib’s leadership Wits excelled in all indicators.

  “Wits research output increased by over 60% in quality, international journals, more students are passing and a record number of students graduated in recent years. Our Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct also flourishes under his leadership. Wits finances are stable and it has strong, independent governance structures,” Patel said.

  Wits University council chairperson Isaac Shongwe said Habib made a significant contribution to Wits and the higher education sector, both locally and abroad.   “His fearless, forthright commentary and robustness has left our university and South Africa a richer intellectual space. Wits has an impressive executive team, who are sought after to lead in the higher education sector; and we are confident that a suitable successor will be appointed,” he said.

  Habib was in the middle of the politics surrounding the ‘fees must fall’ protests that rocked higher learning institutions in recent years. He reflected on his time when the protests erupted in his book Rebels and Rage, published last year.

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