Sir Nigel began his academic career in 1978 with a double first in Psychology and Philosophy at the University of Newcastle. His interests in logic, computation and cognition led him to the Department of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Edinburgh where he obtained his PhD.

Since then he has filled a range of roles in both the public and private sectors, including as the Allan Standen Professor of Intelligent Systems at the University of Nottingham, Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Southampton, Information Advisor to the UK Government, and as Chairman of the Open Data Institute, which he co-founded with Sir Tim Berners-Lee. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the British Computer Society.

He became the Principal of Jesus College in 2015 and is a Professor in the Department of Computer Science where he leads the Human Centered Computing Group. At Oxford he has focused his research on human centered AI in a wide range of applications. Most recently he was asked to lead the setting up of the Oxford Institute of Ethics in AI.