Drummond Bone, vice-chancellor of Liverpool University, has been appointed president of Universities UK. He will replace Ivor Crewe, who is vice-chancellor of Essex University, on August 1.
Professor Bone declined to give interviews this week, but in a statement he said: "I am looking forward enormously to taking up office and guiding the sector through a time of important change as variable tuition fees are introduced for the first time in 2006."
Professor Bone is a UUK board member and a member of the UUK England and Northern Ireland council. He was the favourite to succeed Professor Crewe.
He defeated Janet Finch, vice-chancellor of Keele University, and Geoffrey Copland, vice-chancellor of Westminster University.
While Professor Crewe is closely associated with the '94 Group of universities, Liverpool is a member of the Russell Group.
But the university is an unusual member on a number of indicators. It does not have the research budget of other Russell Group members, but it does have a good widening participation record.
Liverpool has about 22,000 undergraduates and postgraduates, with over a fifth coming from the poorest social classes. It plans to expand student numbers by about 10 per cent by 2010 and has developed a series of partnerships with local further education colleges to achieve this.
The university is also a strong player in its region, playing a key role in the Government's Northern Way task force, which is striving to regenerate the area.
Professor Bone was principal of Royal Holloway, University of London, until he moved to Liverpool in 2002. He did his first degree at Oxford University and his MA at Glasgow. He is a professor of English literature and a world expert on romanticism.