Sarah Cooper is the association's first chief executive to have extensive experience in the ELT sector: she is currently the dean of management and professional studies, international English, at South Thames College in London.
She said: "This industry is very important to me, and I'm delighted to have been given this opportunity to help shape our future. I came into this sector because English opens doors. I passionately believe that the UK is the premier place for people to learn English, and help them open those doors to their future."
Ms Cooper, who takes up her post in August, has represented the state sector on the English UK Board for almost seven years and, as chair, worked closely with late Chief Executive Eddie Byers in formulating the association's current strategy.
Paying tribute to Eddie, who died suddenly in November, she said he had got English UK moving in the right direction. "He had a very clear vision. He emphasised the importance of English UK being a trade association and that it was all about members doing business: that's very dear to my heart. Before I came into ELT my career was in business, with significant stakeholder involvement.
"Eddie kept our priorities under constant review and I will be doing the same: it's an increasingly diverse industry and global markets have become ever more challenging in the almost two years since we put that strategy together.
"There are exciting times ahead, and the Board and I will be looking at how to make the most of all possible opportunities."
Steve Phillips, current English UK chair, said he was delighted Ms Cooper had been appointed. "Sarah combines deep experience and understanding of the industry and knowledge of English UK from her time as chair, and she has extensive business experience. I am really looking forward to working with her to take our association forward."
Ms Cooper began her career in project management in advertising, moving into marketing consultancy and later to a large American private hospital company where strategic planning, new market development and stakeholder engagement were important elements of her role.
After a career break while her children were still young, she retrained as an ELT teacher and taught business, academic and pre-sessional students in the state and private sectors before moving into management 10 years ago, which has led her into roles across international education.