John Craven, who will have spent 16 years as head of the University of Portsmouth when he steps down in July 2013, said he planned to “return to how it all began” by becoming a student.
Professor Craven, whose academic background is in theoretical economics, joined Portsmouth in 1997 from the University of Kent, where he had spent the previous 25 years.
He was the first chairman of the University Alliance group of business-facing universities when it was founded in 2006.
“My years as vice-chancellor have been absorbing and fulfilling,” he said.
“The sector has undergone enormous change. When I joined the university in 1997 undergraduate home students did not pay fees - and this change will continue.
“I hope, however, still to be part of this changing scene in that I plan to return to how it all began and become a student again, by studying for a master’s degree in philosophy,” he added.
Stuart Iles, chairman of Portsmouth’s board of governors, added that the vice-chancellor had overseen the university’s evolution into a large, modern, teaching and research institution.
“We are, of course, very sorry to see him leave. However, his retirement next year will be well deserved after a long and very successful time at the helm,” he said.
The process of filling the role will be discussed when the board meets next month.
Professor Craven, who is a member of the board of the National Museum of the Royal Navy and of the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, said he also hoped to use his free time to pursue interests including white-water rafting and commitments within the Church of England.