Adam Habib

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Adam Habib
Habib (2003)
10th Director of the SOAS University of London[1]
Assumed office
1 January 2021
ChancellorAnne, Princess Royal
(University of London)
Preceded byValerie Amos, Baroness Amos
11th Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the Witwatersrand
In office
1 June 2013 – 31 December 2020
ChancellorDikgang Moseneke
Judy Dlamini
Preceded byLoyiso Nongxa
Succeeded byZeblon Vilakazi
Personal details
Born1965 (age 58–59)
Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
Alma materUniversity of Witwatersrand (BA)
University of KwaZulu-Natal (MA)
City University of New York (MPhil, PhD)
Scientific career

Adam Mahomed Habib (born 1965) is a South African academic administrator serving as Director of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London since 1 January 2021. He served as Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg, South Africa, between 1 June 2013, when the term of his predecessor Loyiso Nongxa ended, and 1 January 2021. He is also a former deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Johannesburg.[2][3][4][5]


Studying at a mix of South African and American universities, Habib graduated as a political scientist having received his Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from the University of Witwatersrand, and his MPhil and PhD from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

He has held academic appointments at the Universities of Durban-Westville and KwaZulu-Natal and the Human Sciences Research Council. Prior to being appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Innovation and Advancement at the University of Johannesburg, he served as the Executive Director of the Democracy and Governance Programme of the Human Science Research Council. Before that, he was the founding director of the Centre for Civil Society and a research professor in the School of Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Habib has served as co-editor of both the social science academic journal Transformation and the official disciplinary journal of the South African Association of Political Science, Politkon. He also sits on the editorial boards of Voluntas and the South African Labour Bulletin. He has served as an external examiner and examined Master's and Doctoral dissertations for a number of South African Universities including Durban-Westville, KwaZulu-Natal, Witwatersrand, Cape Town, and Rhodes. He has also served on a number of boards and councils including those of the University of Durban-Westville, the Durban University of Technology, the International Society for Third-Sector Research, Sangonet, the Centre for Public Participation, and the Centre for Policy Studies.

Habib has published numerous edited books, book chapters and journal articles in the thematic areas of democratisation and its consolidation in South Africa, contemporary social movements, philanthropy, giving and its impact on poverty alleviation and development, institutional reform, changing identities and their evolution in the post-apartheid era, and South Africa's role in Africa and beyond. He is a well-known public figure in South Africa whose opinions are often sought by both the print and broadcast media.

In December 2012, the University of the Witwatersrand invited Habib to be that institution's next vice-chancellor.[6]

In February 2020, it was announced that Habib would succeed Valerie Amos as director of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (SOAS) as of 1 January 2021.[7] In March 2021, Habib stepped aside from his position, as an investigation was launched into his use of a racial slur during an online meeting with a group of students, when he was responding to a question about university policy on the use of the word. He subsequently apologised for his use of the term in the meeting,[8] and was later cleared by an independent external investigation, and allowed to resume his duties.[9]

Barred entry to the United States[edit]

In October 2006, while on a trip with colleagues from the Human Sciences Research Council,[10] Habib was deported when he flew into John F. Kennedy Airport in the US.[10][11] Habib had studied in New York, and he had made numerous trips to New York previously. His wife and young children were also banned from the US.[12]

According to a November 2007 The New York Times article, the US informed Habib he had been barred entry over allegations of "engaging in terrorist activities",[13] and The Christian Science Monitor reported that he had been barred due to having "links to terrorism".[5]

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) tried to aid Habib in learning the reasons why he was barred.[5][13] Upon the release of the justification, the ACLU shifted its effort to get the evidence supporting the allegation, if any, released.

On 20 January 2010, the American State Department decided, in a document signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to lift the ban that prohibited Habib (as well as Tariq Ramadan from Switzerland) from entering the United States.[14]


  • Habib, Adam (2013). South Africa's suspended revolution - Hopes and prospects. Wits University Press. ISBN 978-1-86814-608-6.
  • Adam Habib: Rebels and Rage. Reflecting on #FeesMustFall. Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2019. ISBN 9781868428960
Academic offices
Preceded by Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand
Succeeded by


  1. ^ "Professor Adam Habib, SOAS University of London". 18 February 2020. Retrieved 19 February 2020.
  2. ^ "Executive Board | Director (Chair)". SOAS University of London. Retrieved 15 December 2023.
  3. ^ "Adam Habib: personal details". Center for Civil Society. Archived from the original on 12 February 2008. Retrieved 18 November 2007.
  4. ^ "Adam Habib: Honorary Research Professors and Fellows". School of Development, University of KwaZulu-Natal. Archived from the original on 25 September 2006. Retrieved 18 November 2007.
  5. ^ a b c Baldauf, Scott (16 November 2004). "South African fights denial of U.S. visa". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 23 November 2007.
  6. ^ "Prof Adam Habib offered Wits VC post". Times Live. 8 December 2012. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
  7. ^ Havergal, Chris (18 February 2020). "Wits v-c Adam Habib to be next SOAS director". Times Higher Education (THE). Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  8. ^ "Adam Habib to step aside as University of London SAOS director". eNCA. 19 March 2021. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  9. ^ Etheridge, Jenna; Jeanette Chabalala (5 May 2021). "Adam Habib cleared, investigation finds 'use of N-word did not in itself make him a racist'". News24.
  10. ^ a b "US embassy probing SA academic's deportation". The Independent. 25 October 2006. Retrieved 15 December 2023.
  11. ^ "ACLU Rebukes U.S. Government for Failing to Act on Visa Request of South African Scholar". American Civil Liberties Union. 8 October 2007. Archived from the original on 12 November 2007. Retrieved 18 November 2007.
  12. ^ Habib, Adam (25 September 2007). "Banned: Why a South African is Going to Court in the U.S." HuffPost. Archived from the original on 21 November 2007. Retrieved 18 November 2007.
  13. ^ a b MacFarquhar, Neil (15 November 2007). "Lawsuit over visa for Muslim academic". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 November 2007.
  14. ^ "U.S. lifts ban on Muslim scholar". Reuters. 20 January 2010. Retrieved 15 December 2023.

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