Professor Martin Earwicker is to be vice-chancellor of London South Bank University, replacing Professor Deian Hopkin who is to retire in April 2009.
Professor Earwicker is currently director of the National Museum of Science and Industry.
"This new opportunity at London South Bank University is one I could not refuse and I look forward to working again for another institution that inspires innovation and creativity and encourages lifelong learning," says Professor Earwicker.
The new vice-chancellor's previous roles include head of science and engineering at the Department of Trade and Industry.
"The appointments committee was particularly impressed by Professor Earwicker's commitment to widening participation in education and his blend of commercial, academic and broad ranging public sector experience gives him a unique perspective within higher education at this time of change," says David Longbottom, pro-chancellor.
"On behalf of all of us I would like at this time to recognise the major contribution that Professor Deian Hopkin has made to the university during his period of office.
"He will leave LSBU on a sound financial footing, and with a strong reputation for both adding value to our students' lives and developing our staff."
Professor Hopkin, 64, joined London South Bank University in 2001 and has overseen the consolidation of its activities at the Elephant & Castle campus and the development of several new buildings.