Professor Beer, who is currently vice-chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, will succeed Sir Howard Newby on 1 February 2015 and become Liverpool’s first female vice-chancellor.
She will also be one of only three female vice-chancellors in the Russell Group of large research-intensive universities.
Professor Beer said: “I have strong links with the North West, so to be invited back to the region to lead the world famous University of Liverpool feels truly special to me.
“The university, like the city, has many unique advantages, and the real potential to build on its history and recent successes to develop, grow and improve in ways we can all be proud of.”
David McDonnell, president of Liverpool’s governing council, said: “I have no doubt that Janet will take Liverpool forward as a world-leading university, building on its global reach, while ensuring it remains true to its history at the heart of the city of Liverpool and the region.”
Geoffrey Donnelly, chair of Oxford Brookes’ board of governors, said: “Janet has given inspirational and dedicated leadership during her seven-year tenure with us and I wish to thank her for all that she has done for the university.
“She has ensured that the quality of the student experience is central to the development of our strategy and plans. She has also championed equality and diversity within the university and the sector and this, combined with the excellence of our student experience, will be her lasting legacy.”
Professor Beer’s work as a researcher has been in late 19th- and early 20th-century American literature and culture, and contemporary Canadian women’s writing.
She chairs the Higher Education Public Information Steering Group (responsible for the National Student Survey and Key Information Set), is an elected board member of Universities UK, a board member of Ucas, and a member of the Higher Education Policy Institute advisory board.
Oxford Brookes said the process for recruiting a new vice-chancellor and agreeing interim arrangements would begin shortly.