Reappointed deputy director of AU IT: “I’m devoted to this university”

Peter Bruun Nielsen has been selected to continue leading the digital transformation of Aarhus University. A transformation he has been managing since he started as the deputy director of AU IT in 2015. He now has six more years to focus on improving IT-based processes at the university.

Peter Bruun Nielsen has been selected to continue leading the digital transformation of Aarhus University. Photo: Jens Hartmann Schmidt/Aarhus Universitet

There’s an air of holiday calm in the newly renovated high-rise building in the University City, which has been home to AU IT since 2022. At the time of our interview, Peter Bruun Nielsen’s reappointment as deputy director of IT for the next six years had yet to be announced to staff at the department. They may have sensed it, remarks Peter Bruun Nielsen. "Let’s hope they think it’s good news," he jokes.

At any rate, the staff – and the rest of Aarhus University – are getting a deputy director with a very positive outlook. Not just about his new job, which he knows very well after nine years in the position. He is also positive about the many IT users at Aarhus University who have a constructively critical view of the IT service provided by Peter Bruun Nielsen and his staff.

“IT affects everyone, and everyone can relate to it. You might need help with a tricky IT system, you might have received a phishing mail, or you might have to handle large amounts of data. Almost everything is supported by IT, and the individual IT user should be confident that it’s working," says Peter Bruun Nielsen.

He’s critical of the idea that IT should act as an invisible support because he believes that staff and students at Aarhus University should have some awareness of how IT works. This helps them to be the constructive co-players required for the university’s IT development and digital transformation (which we return to later).

Looking ahead and creating a solid foundation

When Peter Bruun Nielsen started as the deputy director of IT in 2015, he encountered a fragmented university, seen from an IT perspective. There were many IT systems, different infrastructures and multiple data centres. His task was to create uniformity in the vast IT landscape, bring a number of IT projects under control and formulate an IT strategy. And he succeeded, says University Director Kristian Thorn: 

“Peter Bruun Nielsen has convincingly demonstrated that he’s the right person to head Aarhus University's IT development and operations. When he took up his position in 2015, there were a lot of IT tasks to tackle, but Peter and the entire IT team have skilfully implemented initiatives so that AU now has a solid IT foundation. I look forward to Peter continuing to look ahead and implement important changes driven by IT. I’m confident we’re in safe hands with Peter continuing as our deputy director of IT,” says Kristian Thorn.

Focus on security

There are still many different IT systems at AU, says Peter Bruun Nielsen.

“But we have a common IT infrastructure, which means, for example, that we don't have to spend a long time getting something to work across the university. When we had to start using Teams (the online communication and collaboration system, ed.) during the lockdown, it took one day to roll it out so that everyone had access. This wouldn’t have been possible before,” says Peter Bruun Nielsen.

He emphasises that it is not just about providing a fast service and creating a good user journey, as they say in the IT world. It is also about maintaining a high level of IT security.

“We need to focus on security, because universities are a prime target for cybercrime. A new world order means that we must be more aware of the safeguards we build to protect researchers' data. We need to create solutions that give researchers easy and controlled access to closed environments, where they can share and process data with both internal and external partners,” says Peter Bruun Nielsen.

Not just about digitising processes

As a reappointed deputy director, he is not afraid of issuing mission statements. Especially when it comes to the digital transformation.

“It's not just about digitising processes, it’s also about facilitating and automating workflows, so that resources can be used for other important tasks. At AU, we’ve worked hard to create a solid technological foundation, and now we’re ready to reap the rewards. This applies both to administrative processes and to the IT service that researchers experience.  Everyone is affected by the digital transformation: administrative staff, students and academic staff. The goal is to free up time for our core services – research and education – and thereby improve quality,” says Peter Bruun Nielsen.

He is aware that this requires management focus from all corners of the university. And he can feel widespread support.

"That's why I love this university. There’s a sound critical approach, and things must be understood and discussed in depth before they’re accepted. This enables us to reach a consensus on a decision and to reach our goals together," says Peter Bruun Nielsen.

As the head of IT at AU for nine years, Peter Bruun Nielsen successfully built up a reliable administrative division. He stresses that this was possible because of the skilled and competent people he has around him. 

“I’m a team player and I help by providing an overview and priorities. When systems aren't working, it falls back on the IT department, and then we need to be quick to set up the right team and clear away any obstacles. The IT department exists for the university, and we can only succeed if users feel that they’re getting the support they need," says Peter Bruun Nielsen.



Peter Bruun Nielsen is 58 years old, married, a father of four and lives in Skødstrup, from where he cycles to work every day. Before Peter Bruun Nielsen came to AU, he was an IT operations manager in Central Denmark Region.