Michael Arthur, Dean of Southampton University's Faculty of Medicine, will become the first Russell Group Vice-Chancellor with a comprehensive school background when he takes over at University of Leeds in September.
Professor Arthur, an internationally renowned liver specialist, will succeed Sir Alan Wilson, who is joining the Department for Education and Skills as the first Director-General for higher education.
Professor Arthur is a former pupil of Burnt Mill Comprehensive, in Harlow, Essex. His academic career started in Southampton, initially as research fellow and later as lecturer in medicine from 1982 to 1989.
In 1988, he went to the University of California, San Francisco, on a two-year Fogarty International Travelling Fellowship, where he developed his interest in the cell and molecular pathogenesis of liver fibrosis. He returned to Southampton in 1989, and in 1992 was appointed Chair of Medicine.
Professor Arthur won a Fulbright distinguished scholar award in 2002, which enabled him to pursue research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. He was appointed Dean of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences in 2003.
Under his guidance, Southampton's liver research group has increased its research income to more than £7 million since 1996. He won the American Liver Foundation research prize (1987) and the Linacre Medal of the Royal College of Physicians, London (1994). He became a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 1998.
He was a member of the Cell and Molecular panel at the Wellcome Trust (1998-2002) and has recently rejoined the panel as Chairman. He also joined the Higher Education Funding Council for England's strategic research committee.
Leeds Pro Vice-Chancellor David Ansbro said: "He has many of the same very human qualities that his predecessor had, which underpin the university's values."