Dennis Cochrane has been appointed the president of Atlantic Education International. ((Courtesy: St. Thomas University))

Former St. Thomas University president Dennis Cochrane has accepted a two-year position as the president of Atlantic Education International, an appointment geared at boosting the provincial government's foreign education program.

Cochrane, the former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and a member of Premier David Alward's transition team, has already started in the new position, which is a two-year appointment that pays $30,000 annually.

Education Minister Jody Carr said Cochrane's experience in building relationships will be important in his new position in growing the institute.

"There is a lot of growth potential for AEI but growth needs to be done strategically and with a coordinated approach," Carr said in a statement.

"Dennis Cochrane's experience, knowledge and proven track record make him well suited to oversee the execution of AEI's mandate and the development of a business and expansion strategy for international education in New Brunswick."

Atlantic Education International is an arm's length organization that offers international learning opportunities. It has a series of partnerships, including the China partnership, N.B. International Student Program, a teaching abroad initiative and overseeing the operations of the Confucius Institute.

While AEI has a board of directors, its sole shareholder is the Department of Education.

Last year, the institute made $3 million for the provincial government.

The institute has four schools in China with roughly 3,000 students. The Anhui Concord College will open in September and has a projected student population of 400.

Cochrane has a long background in the education sector. He was a high school principal in Moncton and he also served as the deputy minister of education in both the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia governments.

His political resume includes terms as a city councillor, the mayor of Moncton, federal Progressive Conservative MP and a Progressive Conservative MLA. He served as the provincial party leader from 1991 to 1995.

Cochrane returned to New Brunswick in 2009 as the interim president of St. Thomas University, the Fredericton-based liberal arts institution.

Cochrane provided two years of leadership after a period of labour unrest under the previous president, Michael Higgins.

As president, he also raised the university's profile in many public policy issues.

After the Alward government won the 2010 election, he was asked to be a part of the transition team.

He has also been a proponent of moving toward four-year funding plans for universities, which is being adopted by the Alward government.

Other members of Alward's political circle have moved into government positions. Robert MacLeod, Alward's campaign co-chair, is the new president of Invest New Brunswick, and Daniel Allain, the other campaign co-chair, is the president of NB Liquor.