Bill Rammell, who was a Labour MP for 13 years before losing his seat in last year’s general election, will take on responsibilities including oversight of the student experience and internationalisation at the university.
He was minister for higher education from 2005 to 2008 and handled the brief under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
He filled the role when variable tuition fees were introduced in 2006 and was tasked with explaining the change to students.
The former MP for Harlow went on to become a minister at the Foreign Office and later the Ministry of Defence, where he held the armed forces brief until last year’s election, when he lost his seat to the Conservative Robert Halfon.
Speaking following his appointment at Plymouth, Mr Rammell, a graduate in French from Cardiff University, said he was “passionate” about the capacity of higher education “to transform lives and communities for the better”.
Mr Rammell also previously worked as general manager of the student unions at both the University of London and King’s College London. He worked at the University of London Union at the same time as award-winning comedian and writer Ricky Gervais, who was an events manager at ULU at the time.
Mr Rammell will start his job at Plymouth next month.