Columbia names Egyptian as first woman to head university

Columbia names Egyptian as first woman to head university
Nemat Shafik, an economist originally from Alexandria, will be the first woman or Middle Eastern person to head Columbia University.
2 min read
Washington, D.C.
19 January, 2023
Nemat Shafik has previously served as vice-president of the World Bank [Getty]

Columbia University has announced Nemat Shafik, an economist originally from the Egyptian city of Alexandria, as its new president.

This new high-profile hire marks the first time Columbia has hired a woman or a person from the MENA region for this position.

Recently women have been appointed as heads of prestigious US universities including Dartmouth, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the New York Times reported following the announcement on Wednesday.

Shafik, who is also known as Minouche and is a UK baroness, will leave her post as Director of the London School of Economics.

She will take over the post in July at a time when US universities are facing contentious issues, including exorbitant tuition fees, debates over affirmative action, and struggles over instructors' pay.

The university's board of trustees in a letter described 60-year-old Shafik as a perfect candidate. They said she was a "brilliant and able global leader, a community builder and a pre-eminent economist who understands the academy and the world beyond it."

She has also been praised for her "unshakable confidence in the vital role institutions of higher education can and must play in solving the world’s most complex problems."

In addition to working in academia, Shafik, who left Egypt with her family as a child for her father's work in the US, has served as vice president at the World Bank, deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund and deputy governor of the Bank of England. 

She did her master's degree at LSE and her PhD at St Antony's College, Oxford.