Professor Anne Carlisle is to replace University College Falmouth rector Alan Livingston.
Carlisle, currently University of Wales deputy vice chancellor, will take up her new post in September, when Livingston retires.
University College Falmouth announced last year that it is to merge with Dartington College to create a specialist arts university for the South West spanning design, graphics, media, music, theatre and dance.
Carlisle will now take the reins for this merger, which will see the creation of the Arts University Cornwall by 2012, and Dartington relocating to premises on the University of Falmouth in 2010.
She has also worked as a writer and broadcaster and started her academic career as a lecturer at Gwent College of Higher Education in 1990, before becoming head of the Department of Interactive Arts in 1995.
Carlisle was appointed Dean of the School of Art, Media and Design by the University of Wales in 1997, and has since held a number of strategic roles, including pro-vice-chancellor.
Livingston was appointed to the Design Council board earlier this month.
He is featured in the Design Week Hot 50, which is published tomorrow.