Executive Board

President and Vice-Chancellor

As President and Vice-Chancellor, Nishan works with all colleagues to build on the University’s world class reputation in research and teaching to make a positive change in the world. He is responsible for all University activities and leads the direction for overall business and academic strategies.

Black and white photo of Professor Nishan Canagarajah

Professor Nishan Canagarajah

President and Vice-Chancellor

Executive Assistant to the President and Vice-Chancellor
Anne Sachini Gnanapragasam

Twitter: @NCanagarajah


Nishan was born and educated in Sri Lanka, before moving to the UK where he received his BA (Hons) and PhD degrees from the University of Cambridge in 1989 and 1993.

He joined the University of Bristol as a research assistant in 1993 and worked in a number of academic roles, serving as the Faculty of Engineering Research Director, Head of Department of Computer Science, Head of Merchant Venturers School of Engineering and Dean of the Faculty of Engineering.  He became Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise in August 2014. 

Nishan is internationally recognised for his research on signal processing and texture classification. He served on national and international research funding, governance and postgraduate education panels, as well as acting as a technical consultant for Sony, BT, BBC, Orange, Thales, Toshiba and the Met Police.

As University of Bristol lead for equality, diversity and inclusion, Nishan championed a diverse and welcoming University community that reflected his role as one of the Bristol Race Equality Commissioners and position on the Governing Board of the Bristol City Funds.

University of Leicester

Nishan assumed the role of President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester on 4 November 2019.

As President and Vice-Chancellor, he works with all colleagues to build on the University’s world-class reputation in research and teaching to make a positive change in the world. He is responsible for all University activities and leads the direction for overall business and academic strategies. 

He chairs the University’s Executive Board and Senior Leadership Team and is an ex-officio member of the University Council.

Nishan delivered his inaugural address as President and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Leicester in January 2020. During his address he announced the development of the Leicester Institute for Inclusion in Higher Education and pledged that the University would achieve a net zero carbon emission target by 2040.

In October 2021, Nishan launched the University’s Centenary celebrations, marking 100 years since the University welcomed its first students.  

Nishan led the development of a new University strategy, which was published in November 2021. 

Speeches and Blogs



External roles

Nishan has taken on a number of national roles since his appointment as President and Vice-Chancellor. He conducts these roles in support of important activities related to the higher education sector:

  • During 2019 and 2020, Nishan was a member of the University UK working group to address racial harassment in higher education. The group published a report in 2020 with recommendations for universities to adopt to address racial inequality in UK higher education. 
  • In February 2021, he was appointed to the IntoUniversity Trustees Board, IntoUniversity is the leading widening participation charity in the UK. Their aim is to encourage children from disadvantaged communities to aspire to, and acquire the educational skills, to enter university.
  • In September 2022, Nishan joined the Universities UK Board. Universities UK is the collective voice of 140 universities across the UK and the UUK Board is its main decision-making body.
  • He is also the Chair of Trustees of The Conversation Trust, an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public. It aims to allow for better understanding of current affairs and complex issues and rebuild trust in journalism. 
  • He is a Commissioner for the Midlands Innovation Policy TALENT Policy Commission
  • He is a member of the local LLEP Board. 
  • In January 2023, Nishan was appointed as a member of the Universities and College Employers Association Board.

Our academic excellence makes us leaders in the field of research which we will be celebrating in the lead-up to our 100th anniversary. Universities have the ability to transform lives and I truly believe in the motto of this institution, ‘So that they may have life’. I would like to make sure everyone who comes into contact with this institution has their life transformed because of the University of Leicester.

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