Cameron Harrison will start work on February 1 at the Central European University in Budapest as director of educational policy for George Soros's Open Society Foundation. He will be seconded from the curriculum council for two years and an acting chief executive will be appointed. Mr Harrison said he planned to be back for "an exciting time" when the Scottish parliament is set up.
The curriculum council has been active in European circles for some time, particularly in the Consortium of Institutions for Development and Research in Education in Europe. It is running the consortium's secretariat until 2001.
The chief executive's departure coincides with the Government's quinquennial review of the council, but senior Scottish Office figures were quick to dampen speculation of a connection. All Government-funded public bodies undergo such reviews which consider basic questions about their value and purpose.
Merger with the Scottish Qualifications Authority and the Scottish Council for Educational Technology may be the favourite options. "Nothing is ruled out but nothing is ruled in either," one Scottish Office source said.
Tensions have arisen between the Scottish CCC and the Inspectorate, which has been the driving force behind the key curricular developments of 5-14 and Higher Still. These date from 1989 when Michael Forsyth as education minister ordered his advisers to rewrite the council's report on The Balance of the Primary Curriculum.
Government sources say it is "rubbish" to suggest there has been dissatisfaction with the council, although some directors of education are highly critical in private.