St Mary’s University’s newly-appointed principal spoke of the “privilege and honour” of taking up the role.

Francis Campbell will join the university from April 22, working alongside interim principal Dr Arthur Naylor until the end of the academic year.

Dr Naylor had been filling the role temporarily following the resignation of Dr Philip Esler in January, last year.

Following the announcement, Mr Campbell said: “I am delighted to be joining the St Mary’s community at this exciting time in the university college's history.

“It is an immense privilege and honour to be entrusted with this task.

“I look forward to working with the students, staff, governors and alumni to build on the immensely rich legacy handed onto us by those who served St Mary’s throughout its 164 year history.”

The new man is a parishioner of Westminster Cathedral and was born in Newry in County Down, Northern Ireland, before joining the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1997.

He is currently head of the policy unit and director of innovation at UK Trade and Investment.

St Mary’s chairman of governors Bishop Richard Moth said: “I speak on behalf of the whole governing body in saying how delighted we are that Francis Campbell has accepted the post of principal at St Mary’s.

“St Mary’s has a fine tradition in welcoming students to an educational environment marked by a Catholic ethos, where all are respected and where talents are nurtured.

“Francis brings much to this post - his experience in the public sphere, which includes service overseas, will enable him to foster St Mary’s place on the world stage.”

Previous principal Dr Esler stepped down after receiving criticism for his decision to merge the school of theology, philosophy and history with the school of communications, culture and creative arts in 2012.