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Professor Adam Habib to be next Director of SOAS University of London

The SOAS Board of Trustees has appointed Professor Adam Habib as the next Director of SOAS.

Adam Habib is an academic, researcher, activist, administrator, and well-known public intellectual. He has been Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg, South Africa since 2013.  


Marie Staunton, the Chair of the SOAS Board of Trustees said:

“I am delighted that we are able to make this appointment of Prof Adam Habib as the next Director of SOAS. From an impressive field, he was the outstanding candidate to succeed Baroness Valerie Amos, our current Director.

His record of leadership in South Africa, his academic pedigree, his outspoken commitment to diversity and equality, his willingness to challenge received wisdom across society, his commitment to engagement with the student community and his vision on key issues such as decolonisation, make him a superb fit for SOAS and the values we share.”

Professor Adam Habib said: 


“It is a real pleasure to assume the position of Director of SOAS. I have for the last two decades dedicated myself to building universities that address inequality and enable inclusion. This commitment dovetails with the mandate of SOAS and I hope to work with the entire university community – academic and professional staff and students – to continue this mandate and to consolidate the School’s role as an institutional facilitator that reimagines partnerships with institutions in the South and thereby addresses inequalities in global higher education.”

SOAS University of London announced last summer that Baroness Valerie Amos, who has been Director since 2015, would be leaving to take up the position of Master at University College Oxford.

The Board of Trustees conducted a global search for her successor, with extensive involvement of the SOAS community, including panels of students, professional staff and academics. This resulted in a shortlist of over 30 distinguished applicants from universities and international organisations in the UK and Western Europe, across Asia, Africa, the US, Canada, Singapore and Australasia.

Under Professor Habib’s leadership at Wits, student numbers have increased by one-fifth to 37,500; research output has nearly doubled; and income has risen by over 50%. This has allowed increased investment in facilities, staffing and student support at the University.

Professor Adam Habib will be joining SOAS in January 2021. His remuneration package is the same as the outgoing Director at SOAS.

About SOAS University of London: SOAS University of London is the leading higher education institution in Europe specialising in the study of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East. With our vast repository of knowledge and expertise on our specialist regions, we are uniquely placed to inform and shape current thinking about the economic, political, cultural, security and religious challenges of our world. 

SOAS has partnerships with leading institutions across the globe and is one of the initial partners in the new worldwide Open Society University Network (OSUN) announced by George Soros in January 2020.

About Professor Adam Habib: Adam Habib is an academic, researcher, activist, administrator, and well-known public intellectual. A Professor of Political Science, Habib has over 30 years of academic, research and administration expertise, spanning five universities and multiple local and international institutions.

Habib is currently the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). He is one of the co-founders of the African Research Universities Alliance, an affiliation of research-intensive universities on the continent. 

Habib holds qualifications in Political Science from three universities, including the University of Natal and Wits. He earned his masters and doctoral qualifications from the Graduate School of the City University of New York.

About Wits: The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, (aka Wits) is a leading higher education institution in Africa, committed to research and academic excellence, social justice and the advancement of the public good. Home to nearly 40,000 students, Wits is ranked in the top 1% in the world and is one of the top two universities in Africa. The Faculty of Humanities is ranked 1st in Africa. 

Under Professor Habib, since 2013 Wits has increased its student numbers from 31,000  to 37,500 and grown its research outputs from 1,200 to 2,000 units, with over 90% of papers published in peer-reviewed international journals. 

Budgeted income has increased from 2.4 billion Rand in 2013 to 4 billion Rand in 2018, some 500 million Rand per annum above research peers.

This development has allowed Wits to make investments in the academic programme by more than 14% per annum, social investments in professional and administrative staff by a similar 14% and a financial investment approximating 24% in student support.

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