The contest for a successor to Sir William Stubbs as chief executive of the Further Education Funding Council led to fevered speculation in the sector.
Professor Melville was on a list of shortlisted candidates for the top job exclusively revealed in The TES last month. An announcement on the successor to Sir William was due as The TES went to press.
His selection will disappoint principals who hoped to see the post filled from within further education. At Middlesex Professor Melville has cultivated a close relationship between the university and local colleges.
One leading principal called him "a safe choice" who cared about FE and had "strong binary credentials" straddling FE and HE sectors.
Last autumn, Professor Melville, who is vice-chairman of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, told the CVCP it was time universities erased the false division between their own teaching and that in colleges. He is understood to be sympathetic to a strategy of comprehensive provision with a closer alliance between the FE and HE sectors.
Among those beaten to the chief executive's chair by Professor Melville is FEFC finance director Roger McClure, who was felt by many principals to be too absorbed in funding.
Other vice-chancellors of new universities - seen as adept at managing change - were also on the list, together with high-ranking civil servants.