Ivor Crewe, vice-chancellor of Essex University, has been elected president of Universities UK. He will take over from Roderick Floud in August 2003 and serve for two years.
Professor Crewe said: "Universities face a huge number of challenges. As ever there is the funding challenge." He said he was strongly against any reform of the student funding system, which applied to a few universities only. "The solution must benefit all universities equally. I am sure every member of UUK feels that."
Professor Crewe, chair of the 1994 Group of Universities until last year, added: "I intensely dislike the phrase 'top universities'. Universities in the UK as a whole are excellent by international standards and excellent at different things."
Currently UUK vice-president and chair of the England and Northern Ireland Council of Universities UK, Professor Crewe is also chair of the Higher Education Funding Council for England's Foundation Degree Group. "I am confident foundation degrees will be a significant new qualification in the UK," he said.
He went to Manchester Grammar School, Oxford University and the London School of Economics. After spells at Lancaster University and Nuffield College, Oxford he joined Essex's department of government in 1971. He stayed there, becoming vice-chancellor in 1995.
Professor Crewe has written and broadcast extensively on British politics and is a man able to admit to a mistake. Failing to predict the Labour landslide of 1997, he wrote: "We psephologists performed relatively poorly because we lacked confidence in our own analysis of electoral behaviour in the 1992-97 parliament."
Professor Crewe is the third vice-chancellors' leader in the past ten years to have a connection with Essex University. Sir Howard Newby was a colleague of his at Essex and Sir Martin Harris was a vice-chancellor at the university.