Ulster University's (UU) vice-chancellor Professor Paddy Nixon is to leave his post in February 2020.
Professor Nixon took up the top job at the university in July 2015.
He is leaving to become vice-chancellor of the University of Canberra.
Professor Nixon is to be replaced on an interim basis by Professor Paul Bartholomew, currently the deputy vice-chancellor at UU. He said it was an honour to lead Ulster University.
"I am sorry to be leaving the university at a time when a number of key transformational projects are advancing," he said.
"I am confident that the leadership and wider university team will continue their work in this regard to grow Ulster's position as a civic university."
Prof Nixon has been in post during a challenging time for Ulster University.
Just after taking over, he had to preside over cuts to some courses due to reductions in government funding.
Prof Nixon and his counterparts at Queen's University have continued to make the case that higher education in Northern Ireland is underfunded compared to the rest of the UK.
In June 2019, Prof Nixon apologised to staff for a number of governance failings in a staff redundancy process.
Ulster University's plans for a new graduate medical school at its Magee campus have also been delayed a number of times.
Professor Bartholomew worked as a radiographer in the NHS before moving into academia.
He became deputy vice-chancellor at Ulster University in 2016, and will hold the top post on an interim basis until the university recruits a new head.