University of Massachusetts President Robert Caret during his installation ceremony four years ago.

After just four years on the job, the president of the University of Massachusetts is leaving his post. Robert Caret is resigning to become the chancellor of the University of Maryland System.

Earlier this year, Caret signed a three-year extension to his contract with the UMass Board of Trustees, so his move comes as a big surprise to both state lawmakers and the university’s public relations team.

Meanwhile on Twitter, the president of University of Maryland congratulated Caret, saying ‘Welcome home to Maryland.’

Caret previously served as president of Towson University, which is part of the University of Maryland system.

Henry Thomas, chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees, told The Associated Press that he was disappointed to learn of Caret’s decision but said a “first-class search” would begin for a successor.

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UMass Lowell chancellor Marty Meehan has been considered an early favorite to succeed Caret. Three years ago, Meehan was passed over in a search for a new president. But Meehan tells WGBH he has not been contacted by the university about the soon-to-be open position.

[Cross-posted at On Campus: WGBH’s Higher Education Blog]

Kirk Carapezza

Kirk Carapezza is the lead reporter for On Campus. Kirk has reported for Wisconsin Public Radio in Madison, Wis., and Vermont Public Radio in Montpelier, Vt. He's been a writer and producer at WBUR in Boston; a teacher and coach at Nativity Preparatory School in New Bedford, Mass.; a Fenway Park tour guide; and a tourist abroad.

Kirk received his B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and earned his M.S. from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. When he's not reporting or editing stories on campus, you can find him posting K's on the Wall at Fenway.