UCISA24 Awards CIO of the year shortlisted nominees


CIO/Director of the Year 

The UCISA CIO/Director of the Year Award celebrates outstanding contribution by an exemplary leader who demonstrates vision, innovation, transformation and professional excellence. This individual will be a role model not only within their institution but throughout the wider UCISA community.


Brian Henderson

Brian Henderson has been an active, inspiring, and supportive member of the HE community throughout his career, the last eight years of which have been as Director of Digital & Information Services at the University of Aberdeen. Brian currently leads a combined directorate of over 320 staff comprising Library, IT, Information Governance and Security and Museums & Special Collections, providing a diverse range of services to over 18000 students and 3600 staff. 

As the Directorate of Digital & Information Services Senior Management Team, this team have nominated Brian for his exceptional commitment to the directorate, providing them with leadership, friendship, and support, and helping the directorate achieve significant success. They believe that Brian demonstrates all the key characteristics of an exceptional CIO and is befitting the title of CIO of the Year.   

When asked about the impact he brings, Tracey Slaven, University Secretary and Chief Operating Officer said “Brian is a hugely valued member of the Professional Services team at the University of Aberdeen. He provides exceptional leadership to the Directorate of Digital & Information Services, as well as being heavily involved across the sector. He is driving forwards a clear vision for the directorate, supporting the University in its ambitions around digital transformation and service modernisation. I whole-heartedly endorse his nomination for CIO of the Year in recognition of his performance and the direction he has brought to his team, alongside his wider contribution to the higher education sector, which is particularly exemplified through his leadership role with HEFESTIS, where he is supporting and enabling shared services and cyber resilience across the sector.”  


Nick Leake

Nick Leake has been at the forefront of IT in the HE sector for 12 years.  Joining King’s when the IT organisation was in desperate need of a transformation, Nick led the team to update processes and strategies to make King’s IT the well-respected directorate of today.  

Nick Leake is also a well-known figure amongst higher education CIOs. He was heavily involved in the original London Metropolitan Network, which was the origin of the UCISA London Group, and was instrumental in guiding that group into UCISA where it could add benefit to more people. Similarly, Nick is heavily involved with the RUGIT group. 

Nick has consistently supported peers and colleagues across the sector, being generous with his time, advice and support with new arrivals to the sector, new arrivals to the country, or those considering what their next career steps might look like. 

Nick is very thoroughly versed in numerous frameworks and a font of knowledge around them.  He uses this knowledge not only to drive King’s but he also tries to help drive the whole sector to be able to take advantage of these.  As King’s is maturing to use these frameworks at organisation level Nick has sought to help UCISA and other colleagues move to a position where these benefits can be spread across the sector.  


David Minahan

David Minahan’s dedication and unwavering determination make him a deserving candidate for the CIO/Director of the Year Award. Goldsmiths is a creative arts university where diversity and social justice are at the heart of what they do. This is the perfect home for David Minahan.David has been key in making sure their technology and digital projects reflect these values. He continues to work hard to ensure everyone, regardless of their background, has equal access to the digital tools they need.

One of the things that stands out about David is his ability to bring people together. Whether it’s within the university or with outside partners, he’s always focused on teamwork. This approach has led to real, positive changes that we can see and measure. He has a gift for connecting with different groups of people and understanding what they need. This has been important in making sure what Goldsmiths focuses on is useful and meaningful. 

David always keeps the bigger picture in mind. He’s good at balancing what the institution needs right now with its long-term goals, especially when it comes to how it spends our money and resources. He has been steadfast in ensuring that investment is grounded in current data and decisions are based on critical thinking and not past victories. 

Helen Cocker, Digital Services reflects on what led her to nominate David

"I nominated David Minahan for CIO of the year because of the change he’s made at Goldsmiths. His work across the college, and especially with the senior college leadership team, has changed the conversation about digital adoption and made the IT team more confident to innovate.

When I looked at the criteria for the UCISA award, I could think of initiatives that David’s been central to that answered each of the criteria, so it made sense to write those up for the nomination.

Goldsmiths became London’s first Adobe Creative Campus in Aug 23 thanks to considerable negotiation from David. All students and staff now have access to the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, and this has enabled innovation in multimodal assessments. Adobe have provided training for our academic staff and are sponsoring some joint research to track the progress of our students as they use the tools to develop their digital skills. It’s very Goldsmiths that students can be assessed for the new Connected Curriculum programme by recording a podcast, designing a poster, or making a film.

David spent time listening to customers experience of using IT services both from academics and professional services. He also listened to the experience of the IT staff delivering those services. The result is we can all see our views reflected in the final Digital Transformation Enabling Plan that’s been approved by the College.

David’s shares a passion for inclusivity with the head of our Computing department, Prof Jennifer George and this has led to a dedicated workstream of the Digital Transformation Enabling Plan specifically on these initiatives.

David brought the idea of an IT Charter to the IT managers and together they agreed 5 points to state publicly to our customers what our priorities are and how we aim to work with them. This was shared with the wider IT team for approval and has been also incorporated into the Digital Transformation Enabling Plan. It provides that focus for the IT team to check back that we’re continuing to prioritise and work in the way we agreed we would.

David gained budget to recruit to new roles, and we now have more expertise for the Microsoft 365 and Power Platform, and small teams managing the Digital Transformation portfolio and IT Architecture. This has given a real boost to the IT team.

David’s personal style and vision has made a huge difference at Goldsmiths and for all that he’s achieved in 2023 I think he deserves to be CIO of the year!"


Jason Oliver

Jason's prescient insight into trends within Higher Education sets him apart. With nimble agility, he pioneers the development of technology that isn't just functional but transformative, propelling innovation and nurturing organic growth within the University. 

Yet, what truly distinguishes Jason from his peers in the field of CIOs is his ethos of co-creation and adoption of a modern mindset. The blend of his traditional skill sets interwoven with a forward-thinking mindset, emphasising the digital and data landscape while focusing on humanity, community, the future, and our planet, creates a seismic force. It’s a force that is reshaping the very fabric of operations at the University of Sussex, redefining how our staff delivers exceptional digital services that transcend to positively transform the lives of its students and staff. 

Jason isn’t just a CIO; he’s a vanguard reshaping the future of higher education technology. His approach is a beacon, illuminating a path where technological advancement meets human-centric innovation, setting a standard for excellence that reverberates far beyond our institution's walls. 


Krish Pilicudale

Krish Pilicudale, the Director of Digital Information at the University of Huddersfield, demonstrates professional excellence and dedication to inclusive and innovative leadership and is committed to delivering transformational strategic change. As a UCISA member he promotes knowledge-sharing with colleagues and the rest of the sector and beyond through engagements in conferences and webinars such as Higher Education Partnership Network, Microsoft Webinar, and more, facilitating other institutions also to benefit from sharing knowledge and experience. Krish has been described by fellow colleagues in the sector as “one of the leading examples of this open, supportive and collaborative approach”, and “willing to share ways of working, successes, risks and thoughts”. He is “an excellent sector colleague and one that I have found incredibly helpful, supportive and collaborative”. He “brought some of our teams together to learn from each other”. His “positivity and drive to continually improve things is exceptional”; “it is joy to work with Krish”. 

Under Krish’s leadership, the University’s digital estate has been transformed with quantifiable business benefits from the large portfolio of projects (19 IT-led projects have been initiated and 22 projects have been successfully delivered since January 2022). He worked closely with stakeholders in automation of Teaching and Learning activities and in initiatives such as laptops for students addressing socioeconomic factors. He has championed green initiatives reducing energy consumption and incorporated scalability and sustainability into all IT initiatives and procurement process. All these will contribute to reducing the University’s carbon footprint by aligning to Microsoft’s Carbon Negative by 2030 strategy. 

Under Krish’s direction, the Computing and Library Services Directorate at the University of Huddersfield has emerged as a sector leader in a number of areas and remains at the forefront of technological progress. Recent Business Technology Standard (BTS) audit reported digital transformation maturity at CMMI level 3 ‘Defined’ status. JISC Digital Experience Insights survey 2023 responders ranked Huddersfield ahead of the sector benchmark for overall support to learn, teach and work online which was also reflected in the Office for Students’ latest Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) outstanding Gold rating awarded to Huddersfield, the highest accolade attainable for a university. Krish and colleagues have celebrated many achievements for the institution including Service Desk Certification ‘Customer Led’ status, Customer Service Excellence with four “Compliance Plus” ratings whilst remaining compliant with the overall standard, Cyber Essentials for the full organisation, and finalists in UK IT Industry Awards in two different categories.”


And the winner was......

Brian Henderson

4 people of a stage one in a kilt holding an award and certificate in a frame