UUK said Sir Christopher - currently a vice-president representing England and Northern Ireland - will succeed the current head, University of Bristol vice-chancellor Eric Thomas, on 1 August 2013 and will hold the post for two years.
Sir Christopher - an engineer with wide experience of the international microwave and semiconductor industry - has been vice-chancellor of Surrey since August 2005.
He is vice-president of the Royal Academy of Engineering and chairs its engineering policy group. He was also president of the Institute of Engineering and Technology in 2009-10.
Nicola Dandridge, UUK chief executive, said: "Chris has tremendous knowledge of higher education, industry and government which will be a great asset to him in this role. "He has already made an enormous contribution to Universities UK's work, both as a member of the board and leading on higher education and industry links.
"He is widely respected, both as a leading academic and vice-chancellor, and we look forward to working with him as president from next summer."
Sir Christopher said he was "extremely privileged and delighted" to become the next president. "This is a very challenging period for UK higher education and I look forward to representing the sector and promoting it, both nationally and internationally," he said.
"I will seek to present the sector's views to government, and other major stakeholders, and to ensure that UUK is positioned as a key influence in steering higher education policy and able to help institutions capture new opportunities as they arise.
"This is a time to ensure that the UK higher education sector continues to be seen as world class and a great national asset."
Sir Christopher has not been afraid to criticise government policy. He told Times Higher Education in an interview in September of his concerns about excessive regulation of the sector.
"I don't think there are many sectors - you've got to bear in mind I came from industry - that are as heavily regulated...as universities," Sir Christopher said in the interview.