The former president of Universities UK, who led the organisation between 1999 and 2001, will step down from the university in 2015.
It brings to an end Sir Howard’s long career in higher education, which has seen him lead the University of Southampton and the University of the West of England before arriving at Liverpool in August 2008.
He is also credited with influencing and championing a generation of university leaders who served under him at Southampton. They include University of Bristol vice-chancellor Sir Eric Thomas, who last week also announced he would be retiring next year.
News of Sir Howard’s retirement was announced to staff at Liverpool on 11 February by David McDonnell, the president of the university’s council.
In an email, Mr McDonnell says the exact timing of Sir Howard’s departure would depend on the appointment of his successor.
A joint committee of Liverpool’s senate and council is to be established to lead the hunt for Sir Howard’s replacement, the email adds.
In a statement, Mr McDonnell thanked Sir Howard for the “significant contribution he has made to the university”.
“We are now looking forward to finding a successor who can build on Howard’s good work, and lead the university on to future success,” he said.
Sir Howard said he was “saddened to be leaving the university”.
“It is a privilege to work with such talented and committed colleagues and students,” he said.
Sir Howard was made a CBE in 1995 for services to social science and received a knighthood for services to higher education in 2000.