Habib was expected to join the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London from January, 1 2021.
Habib will vacate his roles at Wits at the end of December.
“I was approached to apply for the SOAS 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,” said Habib.
Habib has been at helm of the university for the past seven years.
“I have committed to strengthening ties between the South African and UK higher education sectors in my new role. Wits has recorded significant achievements in the last seven years.
“In 2019 we 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.
“… as a result of these academic successes, our budgeted income has increased from R2.4 billion in 2013 to R4 billion in 2018, some R500 million per annum above our research peers. This has allowed us to make investments in the academic programme by more than 14% per annum, social investments in professional and support staff by a similar 14% and a financial investment approximating 24% in student support,” Habib said.
He said he led an institution which in some instances was under attack from politicians and activists who threatened and sometimes destroyed public institutions, either because of greed and or misguided political adventurism.
“I cannot claim that we have made the politicians and political activists happy. However, in the indicators that matter, research, teaching, financial sustainability and transformation, we have done well as a result of the collective endeavours of all,” Habib said.
Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel said under Habib’s leadership Wits has exceeded in all indicators.
“Wits research output has increased by more than 60% in quality, international journals, throughput rates are up, more students are passing and a record number of students have graduated in recent years.
“Wits University’s Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct has also flourished under his leadership, Wits’ finances are stable and it has strong, independent governance structures in place,” Patel said.
Chairperson of Wits University’s Council Isaac Shongwe congratulated Habib on his appointment.
“He 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.
“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 said.