Liz Barnes is to succeed Michael Gunn as vice-chancellor of Staffordshire University.
She has also spent 23 years at Teesside University, where she was dean of social sciences and law.
Professor Barnes will take over at Staffordshire when Professor Gunn retires in spring 2016 after five years in charge.
David Gage, chair of the university’s board of governors, said that the selection panel was “particularly impressed with Professor Barnes’ calibre, her strong leadership acumen and her broad and extensive experience”.
“We are confident that she will prove to be a strong vice-chancellor and a worthy successor to Professor Michael Gunn,” he added.
Originally from Staffordshire, Barnes started her career as a PE and maths teacher.
She studied at Sheffield University and subsequently taught physiology and set up sport science at Teesside.
Commenting on her appointment, Professor Barnes said that she was “delighted” to be joining Staffordshire and commended the “important role that Staffordshire University has in developing our future leaders and entrepreneurs”.
She also praised the university’s commitment to “inclusivity, providing opportunities for students from a broad range of social backgrounds”, as well as its “employability agenda” and its efforts to “contribute to society whilst maintaining excellence in research”.
Staffordshire is the latest in a growing list of UK universities to appoint a female leader within the past year.
These include Soas, University of London (Baroness Amos); the University of Sunderland (Shirley Atkinson); the University of Derby (Kathryn Mitchell); the University of Salford (Helen Marshall); the University of Brighton (Debra Humphris); St George’s, University of London (Jenny Higham) and the University of Oxford (Louise Richardson).
It means that when Professor Barnes takes up the post, the number of women leading universities will have increased by about a third year-on-year.