Sir John Daniel, former vice-chancellor of the Open University, is to leave his senior post at Unesco after three years to head the Commonwealth of Learning.
He is to take over as president and chief executive of the Vancouver-based flagship of Commonwealth distance learning from Gajaraj (Raj) Dhanarajan, who retires in May.
Sir John was vice-chancellor of the OU from 1990-2001, when he was appointed assistant director-general for education at Unesco. He coordinated the global drive to achieve "Education for All".
"Having chaired CoL's original planning committee in 1988, I am delighted by the strong reputation it has so quickly established," Sir John said.
"Governments now realise that open and distance learning, using appropriate technology, can transform education by extending access, raising quality and cutting costs - all at the same time. CoL is there to help the developing countries of the Commonwealth make this possibility a reality."
Sir John was involved in setting up Quebec's Tele-universite and Alberta's Athabasca University in the 1970s, before his appointment as vice-rector of Concordia University in Montreal and president of Laurentian University in Ontario.
CoL was created in 1987 by Commonwealth heads of government to encourage the development and sharing of open learning and distance education knowledge, resources and technologies. It began operations two years later.
In December, heads of government backed CoL's three-year plan and its central role in setting up a Commonwealth Virtual University for Small States. They declared that education, whether formal or informal, is "central to development in any society and is of the highest priority to the Commonwealth".