When universities appoint vice-chancellors, they normally want one steeped in academia who holds a senior post in a similar institution.
But Bolton university, the newest in the UK, has appointed George Holmes, principal of Doncaster college. He is believed to be the first FE college principal to become a university vice-chancellor. At 44, he will also be the youngest leader of a British university.
Of the eight people shortlisted, he was the only one not to hold a senior post at a large university.
"I have heard of college principals becoming deans at universities," he said, "But I don't know of any other head of an FE institution becoming head of a university."
He is leaving Doncaster college after nearly five years in charge, in which time its income has risen from pound;25 million to pound;38m a year.
The college has also begun the biggest education project in the UK - the Pounds 90m construction of Doncaster Education City, a theme park-style building due to open in September 2006.
Dr Holmes said: "There are some regrets about leaving before the project I helped to initiate is completed, but the Bolton job was something I could not turn down.
"During my career, I have straddled both sectors and found them both very satisfying. But my heart has always been in HE. The pursuit of scholarship and knowledge is something I have been hungry for from an early age."
He began his career as a business studies and economics lecturer at Wakefield college, and moved to HE before taking the job at Doncaster college in January 2001. He was deputy vice-chancellor of the University of North London.
He will take up his new job at Bolton in September. It became a university last year, having previously been an HE institute.
Mr Holmes dismissed a story in Private Eye this week which suggested his departure had been prompted by the Learning and Skills Council's unhappiness with his leadership.
He said: "I am just gobsmacked. It is all just completely untrue. Our lawyers need to look at this. I shall have to consider whether to treat Private Eye as a ridiculous comic and just ignore it, or to sue.
"Would the LSC give the biggest capital grant ever - some pound;20m - to a college in which it didn't have confidence in its leadership?
"It could be funny if it wasn't so completely wrong."