Jim Wallace, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, has been appointed minister for enterprise and lifelong learning in the new Scottish cabinet.
Mr Wallace, 48, made the axeing of tuition fees the price of a coalition deal between the Liberal Democrats and Labour in the first Scottish Parliament.
The coalition deal, which comes in the wake of this month's Scottish parliamentary elections, pledges an independent ombudsman for student complaints, support for a higher threshold for loan repayments across the UK and a review of student bursaries.
Rami Okasha, president of the National Union of Students Scotland, praised the moves but said: "Jim Wallace will need to make this review genuine and generous to lift students out of poverty."
Mr Wallace, who was justice minister in the last parliament, took an MA at Cambridge University and an LLB at Edinburgh University, becoming an advocate at the Scottish Bar.
He remains deputy first minister. He has twice been acting first minister, after the death of Donald Dewar and the resignation of Henry McLeish.
He will also oversee an investigation of Scottish higher education funding in the wake of the white paper south of the border.
There was concern among university principals that first minister Jack McConnell would put lifelong learning alongside school education. A Universities Scotland spokesperson said: "We are very glad to see that the link between enterprise and lifelong learning has been maintained."