Nik Powell, one of the most prolific producers in the UK, is to quit the production scene and take over as director of the National Film & Television School (NFTS).

He takes up the new job from 29 September and will cease to have any direct managerial role at Scala Productions, the company he founded in the 1990s after the demise of Palace. Powell replaces Stephen Bayly, who had been the school's head since 1998 and returned to production in April this year.

'This is an exceptional opportunity for me to play a major direct role in the laying of the foundations of the film and television industries of tomorrow, "said Powell.

Michael Kuhn, NFTS chairman, commented: "Everyone in the UK business knows [Powell] as a passionate advocate of British and European film and television and a distinguished producer."

The move is likely to stun many in the industry as the charismatic Powell, who has produced three or more films per year for many years and has totalled 45 features in his career, has come to typify the UK school of wheeler-dealing, independent producer. However Powell says: "Historically, I have changed direction every ten to twelve years.

"A large proportion of what I have been doing has involved nurturing of new talent, both executive and creative. When the opportunity with the NFTS arose it really appealed to me. The school needs the backing of the industry."

Powell will keep his 51% stake in Scala and retain an executive producer credit on all the films already committed to production. These pictures, which include the forthcoming Ladies In Lavender, have other producers attached who will take over their realisation.

Powell said he envisages that Scala will become a "rights management and co-production company," overseeing the existing portfolio of projects which are in different stages of development.

Powell says he has no intention of announcing major upheavals at the NFTS before he starts in October. Although there has been previous talk of finding a new home for the school, Powell says he is committed to keeping film training at the existing Beaconsfield site. He says the equipment is good, but the site needs refurbishment.

Similarly, efforts will also be concentrated on the two-year MA course and the school's existing short courses, rather than expansion of the syllabus. "My policy will be to ensure that the school is a centre of excellence, that the courses work to their full potential. The phrase 'the best of the best' is one that appeals to me," said Powell. "This is an open ended contract. I intend to be there as long as the school will have me."

Powell is not expected to have to give up many of his other industry functions. These include roles as non-executive chairman of the European Film Academy, board member of the Northern Ireland Film and Television Commission and membership of the British Screen Advisory Council.

Ladies In Lavender, which marks the directorial debut of Charles Dance, will be produced by Scala's Nicholas Brown. Starring Judi Dench and Maggie Smith it is set to shoot from Sept 8. It is backed by Baker Street, the UK Film Council and a private equity fund. Entertainment Film Distributors is committed as UK distributor.