JOHANNESBURG – University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) vice-chancellor and principal Professor Adam Habib has been appointed for a second term to lead one of the top higher education institutions on the continent, Wits announced on Saturday.
Following consultations with various constituencies, the university council agreed to a five-year renewal of Habib’s contract, commencing in 2018, council chairman Dr Randall Carolissen said.
“Professor Habib is a dynamic leader with immense experience in managing higher education institutions within South Africa’s complex political and socio-economic context,” he said.
“In the last few years he has consolidated Wits’s academic programmes, enhanced its research and innovation standing, restructured its managerial and technological operations, while ensuring the university’s financial sustainability.”
Wits had made tremendous achievements in the past few years which should not be overshadowed by the problems the university faced in recent months. Despite the student protests pertaining to funding issues, the university made incredible strides, Carolissen said.
Under Habib’s leadership, Wits’s global reputation had been enhanced with the university now ranked either number one or two on the continent in all major global rankings.
Among other things, Wits had accomplished an unprecedented 43 percent increase in research output over the past three years. The focus on remaining locally responsive and globally competitive had resulted in increased collaboration with universities across the continent and the globe.
The quality of teaching and support offered to students had improved, which had resulted in the pass rate at first year undergraduate level increasing substantially in the past three years. This had in turn resulted in more students graduating in record time.
New blended learning options and online teaching initiatives were underway, including a R500-million project to completely overhaul Wits’ IT systems. This would 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. In addition to [the] 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,” Carolissen said.
An accelerated transformation plan was also being implemented which had seen R45 million set aside to diversify the academy, including the appointment of a range of new scholars. Other elements of the plan included a revision of the language policy, renewal of the curriculum, reforming the institutional culture, creating a diverse student and residence experience, renaming Wits’s places and spaces, and insourcing workers.
“These achievements are not the sole consequence of the vice-chancellor but that of the entire university community. However, under his leadership, he has created the conditions to enable these accomplishments. 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,” Carolissen said.