Rowan Williams will stand down in December and take on the role of master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, from January 2013.
Dr Williams has been the head of the Anglican church – which has a membership of around 85 million people worldwide - since 2003.
A spokesman for Magdalene said Dr Williams would be the 35th master of the institution and would replace Duncan Robinson, who has held the post for the past ten years.
“The college looks forward to the mastership of Dr Williams who has the capacity and vision to guide the College in a time of unprecedented change in higher education,” the spokesman said in a statement on the college’s website.
“His very distinguished record, both as a scholar and a public figure, will provide for the whole community a model of the high standards of achievement to which Magdalene is committed.”
Dr Williams said: “I am very grateful to the college for the honour they have done me, and look forward to being part of such a lively and intellectually rigorous community.”