Brian Duffield, dean of the faculty of cultural and education studies at Leeds Metropolitan University, has been appointed chief executive of UHI Ltd, the body taking forward plans for a new University of the Highlands and Islands.
Professor Duffield, selected from more than 80 applicants for the Pounds 55,000-a-year post, said: "This is the best job in Britain and the pinnacle of my professional career. I believe that UHI is the most exciting development in higher education in decades."
He said one of the first tasks would be to ensure delivery of capital developments at each of the 11 campus sites, made possible by the recent Pounds 33.4 million grant from the Millennium Commission.
But his priority was developing an academic strategy to tackle the demanding criteria required for university status.
"All the money in the world won't buy a university, and I'm concerned to move forward on a staff development plan which will allow the existing staff and staff yet to be recruited to be effective facilitators," he said.
"I'm also concerned to build yet more effective links with industry and business because the university is seen to be part and parcel of society and the economy of the Highlands and Islands."
Professor Duffield, who will take up the post in January, has worked in higher education for 32 years, and has held senior posts at Edinburgh University, Dumfermline College of Physical Education, and Moray House College of Education. He has been dean at Leeds Metropolitan since 1989 and chairs the academic quality and development committee.
"Quality must be the watchword of UHI. We should not accept any option that compromise the highest standards," he said.