At his Wits end: Habib resigns, will head to London

2020-02-18 13:08

University of Witwatersrand vice-chancellor and principal Professor Adam Habib has resigned.

Habib has accepted an offer to serve as the director of the School of Oriental and African Studies based in London as from January 1 next year. He will leave the institution at the end of the year

“I was approached to apply for the 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,” Habib said.

Adam Habib ... is a dynamic leader, who has without a doubt made a significant contribution to Wits and the higher education sector, both locally and abroad.
Isaac Shongwe, Wits council chairperson

Habib has been at the helm of Wits for the past seven years.

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

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

The Tshimologong Digital Innovation Hub, the statement said, has also flourished under his leadership.

The hub focused on the incubation of digital entrepreneurs, commercialisation of research and the development of high-level digital skills for students, working professionals and unemployed youth.

Wits’ finances, the statement said, are stable and it has strong, independent governance structures in place.

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

“In 2019 we graduated more than 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,” Habib said.

Isaac Shongwe, Wits council chairperson, said: “Adam Habib ... 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.”

Habib has committed to continue to serve Wits until all the necessary succession plans and processes are put in place, Shongwe said.

Wits chancellor Dr Judy Dlamini, members of the university’s council and members of the senior executive team are already working together to ensure that all the processes to appoint a suitable successor are in place.

“Wits has an impressive executive team, who are increasingly sought after to lead other universities in the higher education sector. Almost a third of all public universities in South Africa are led by Witsies, and we are confident that a suitable successor will be appointed. We will, of course, continue to develop strong leaders for all sectors of society,” Shongwe added.

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March 29 2020