The 14-university Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education said Thursday that its chancellor will be leaving to take a job in Washington, D.C.
The system said John Cavanaugh will depart at the end of February to run the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area.
The executive vice chancellor, Peter Garland, will take over on an acting basis after Cavanaugh leaves.
Board chairman Guido Pichini called Cavanaugh "one of the brightest minds in higher education today" and credited him for new ideas and high standards.
In June, the system's board voted to extend Cavanaugh's contract to 2015. He's held the top job since 2008, with a current salary of $327,500.
The system is embroiled in contentious contract negotiations with university faculty, who have been working without a contract since June 2011. Members voted overwhelmingly last month to give union leadership the authority to call a strike.
In a statement issued Thursday, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties called on Cavanaugh to use his remaining two months in Harrisburg to resolve the impasse. The two sides disagree on pay for part-time instructors, health care benefits and compensation for online education.
The system has about 115,000 students and some 500,000 alumni. Campuses are located in Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.