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Professor Adam Habib appointed for a second term at Wits University

- Wits University

Following consultations with various constituencies, the Council of the University agreed to a five-year renewal of Professor Habib’s contract.

The Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the Witwatersrand, Professor Adam Habib, has been appointed for a second term to lead one of the top higher education institutions on the continent.

Following consultations with various constituencies, the Council of the University agreed to a five-year renewal of Professor Habib’s contract, commencing in 2018.

“Professor Habib is a dynamic leader with immense experience in managing higher education institutions within South Africa’s complex political and socio-economic context,” comments Dr Randall Carolissen, Chairperson of the Council of the University. “In the last few years, he has consolidated Wits’ academic programmes, enhanced its research and innovation standing, restructured its managerial and technological operations, whilst ensuring the University’s financial sustainability.” 

“Wits University has made tremendous achievements in the last few years, which should not be overshadowed by the challenges that the University faced in recent months. Despite the student protests pertaining to funding issues, the University made incredible accomplishments as outlined below,” he adds.

Under Professor Habib’s leadership, Wits’ global reputation has been enhanced with the University now ranked either number one or two on the continent in all major global rankings.

Wits University has accomplished an unprecedented 43% increase in research output over the last three years. The focus on remaining locally responsive and globally competitive has resulted in increased collaboration with universities across the continent and the globe.

The quality of teaching and support offered to students has improved, which has resulted in the pass rate at first year undergraduate level increasing substantially in the last three years. This has, in turn, resulted in more students graduating in record time.

New blended learning options and online teaching initiatives are underway, including a R500 million project to completely overhaul Wits’ IT systems. This will allow more access to Wits through e-learning, online short courses and eventually e-degrees.

“These are just some of the examples that reflect the significant contribution that Professor Habib and his team have made to Wits in recent years,” adds Carolissen. “In addition to subsidy from the state, he has ensured that Wits continues to secure additional resources from donors for teaching and research. Student funding is a priority and Professor Habib and his team are working to maximise income through creating an endowment for student funding from the possible development and/or sale of land owned by the University.”  

The renewal of Braamfontein has received greater impetus with the development of the Tshimologong Digital Innovation Hub together with the public and private sectors and the establishment of the R700 million IBM research lab by IBM. The opening of the new Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital on land donated by Wits in Parktown, and partnerships with the Hospital that will foster greater research and postgraduate training, is a major highlight of 2016.

An accelerated transformation plan is being implemented which has seen R45 million set aside to diversify the academy, including the appointment of a range of new scholars. Other elements of the plan include a revision of the language policy, renewal of the curriculum, reforming the institutional culture, creating a diverse student and residence experience, renaming Wits’ places and spaces and insourcing workers.

“These achievements are not the sole consequence of the Vice-Chancellor but that of the entire University. However, under his leadership, he has created the conditions to enable these accomplishments,” adds Carolissen. “On balance, it is my belief that Wits is a far stronger institution in 2017 than it was in 2013. Given this performance, the Council of the University has agreed to renew Professor Habib’s contract for a second term.”

One of the most significant challenges to universities emerged over the last 18 months with the student protests for free education. “These were extremely difficult periods for the University but I believe that Professor Habib acted at all times with integrity and with the best interests of the University at heart. He implemented Council decisions and managed difficult situations which enabled the completion of the 2016 academic programme,” says Carolissen.

The second term of the Vice-Chancellor and Principal will commence in 2018 and run until 2023.