Mr Elvidge, aged 48, won the post ahead of others such as Ed Weeple, current head of lifelong learning in the department, and will pick up a salary of between pound;80,000 and pound;116,000.
He replaces Gerry Wilson, who retires in the autumn. Mr Wilson combined the jobs of head of education and industry but the remit has now been separated with the advent of the Scottish Parliament. Mr Wilson continues as head of industry until he goes. His post is being advertised publicly.
Mr Elvidge attended a London comprehensive and Oxford University before joining the Scottish Office in 1973. He began as an administrative trainee in the education department and has served in several other departments at senior level. Since March last year, he has been on loan to the Cabinet Office as deputy head of the economic and domestic affairs secretariat. Education has been part of his remit.
The precise areas of his responsibilities have yet to be established following ministers' decisions to split school from post-school education under the parliament.