Henry McLeish, Scotland's minister for enterprise and lifelong learning, is widely tipped to succeed Donald Dewar as Scotland's first minister.
A meeting of the Labour Party's MSPs and Scottish Executive is expected to endorse Mr McLeish as interim Labour leader tomorrow, although a strong challenge is expected from finance minister Jack McConnell.
Mr McLeish, former lecturer in social science at Heriot-Watt University, is well-regarded in Scotland's higher and further education sectors. He won widespread praise last month for putting higher and further education at the heart of his department's investment plans.
David Bleiman, assistant general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, said: "Henry McLeish has shown an awareness of the needs and problems of the Scottish universities. He rapidly recognised that academic pay was an issue and that universities were using insecure fixed-term contracts far too widely. He found the funds within the enterprise and lifelong learning budget to begin a real investment in higher education."
Mr Bleiman said one trait that made Mr McLeish a likely choice was his ability to work with a range of people, including those from other parties.
He has a good working relationship with John Swinney, who last month gave up his convenership of the parliament's enterprise and lifelong learning committee to take up leadership of the Scottish National Party.
Mr Bleiman said: "The fact that (they) respect each other and can work together is good news in a parliament that is in danger of replicating the Westminster slanging matches, which were to be replaced by a 'new politics'."