Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group of large research-intensive universities, is to stand down in February, it has been announced.
Dr Piatt, who has led the group since its incorporation in 2007, said that she had told the board that she wished to “explore new challenges” in 2017.
Her decision comes months after she was embroiled in a media storm following newspaper allegations that she had been involved in an affair with António Horta-Osório, the chief executive of the Lloyds Banking Group.
The Sunday Times reported in August that Dr Piatt was being investigated by the Russell Group with regard to whether she breached rules by meeting Mr Horta-Osório during a business trip to Singapore.
Following the newspaper stories, the group launched a wide-ranging internal review into “processes and protocols” at the organisation.
The review, which has now been completed, will not be published, but Times Higher Education understands it found no evidence of wrongdoing related to Dr Piatt’s travel and expenses.
Dr Piatt said that reaching the milestone of leading the organisation for 10 years made it “an appropriate time to move on, and I am confident my successor will inherit an organisation which is synonymous with the very highest standards in research, teaching and innovation”.
Sir David Greenaway, chair of the group and vice-chancellor of the University of Nottingham, said: “I would like to thank Dr Piatt for her leadership skills, hard work and commitment, in first of all establishing the Russell Group as an incorporated organisation in 2007, and in making the group an internationally recognised advocate of all that is best about UK higher education, research and innovation in the years since then.
“She has significantly raised the profile and influence of our leading universities and has played a key role in shaping the strategies and policies that have made UK universities admired around the world.”
A Russell Group spokesman said its board would now begin a search for a new director general to succeed Dr Piatt, who will stand down on 1 February.
He added that the announcement was “not related to Wendy Piatt’s personal life and is unconnected”.