Moray man crowned Student of the Year

A Moray graduate who overcame the challenges associated with having two rare genetic disorders has been named as the University of the Highlands and Islands Student of the Year. Jim Robertson (60) from Forres was selected for the award for exceptional personal and academic achievement.

The father of two was diagnosed with Friedrich’s Ataxia and Dystonia, rare neurological conditions which cause muscle weakening, spasms and speech problems, when he was 30. The disorders mean that Jim uses a motorised wheelchair, tires easily and has difficulty with speaking, writing and typing.

Despite these challenges, he undertook an HNC in computing on a part time basis at Moray College UHI in 2007. Since then, he worked hard to achieve excellent academic results, completing a BSc in computing with distinction through the university earlier this year.

Jim’s personal academic tutor, Dr Ian Barnes, who is also a lecturer and programme leader for the university’s computing degree, explained: “Jim consistently produced work of the highest standard, often well beyond what was required. He was awarded his degree with distinction, which means he finished with an A average, an outstanding achievement for any student. For a student who faced such challenges, this achievement is quite extraordinary.”

Jim was selected as the University of the Highlands and Islands’ first Fujitsu IT Student of the Year in July, then Moray College UHI’s Student of the Year in October. He went forward for the university’s overall Student of the Year award with eleven other winners from around the partnership and was announced as the winner at the university’s Foundation Day event in Fort William on Tuesday 26 November.

Jim was selected as Student of the Year by a panel of judges made up of the university’s principal and vice-chancellor, its dean of students and the depute president of its student’s association. He was presented with a cheque for £250 as well as a certificate signed by HRH The Princess Royal, the university’s chancellor, and James Fraser, its principal and vice-chancellor.

Speaking about his award, Jim said: “To be named as overall University of the Highlands and Islands Student of the Year 2013 completely overwhelmed me. I believe this award to be a huge honour, especially when there were so many other deserving candidates.

“All the staff at Moray College UHI had been very supportive towards me, providing me constant encouragement and help towards my studies and for that I am grateful. The encouragement I received definitely contributed towards my determination to succeed in achieving my passion and goals towards my degree.”

James Fraser, University of the Highlands and Islands principal and vice-chancellor said: “All of our Student of the Year candidates were strong contenders for this award, but Jim is a worthy winner. His tenacity, positive attitude and determination are a lesson to us all, proving that no challenge is too great if we work hard and focus our efforts. Jim is a fine ambassador for the university and I hope others will be inspired by his achievements. I would like to congratulate Jim and all the other Student of the Year candidates and wish them well in their future endeavours.”

Anne Lindsay, Moray College UHI’s acting principal, said: “The Board of Management and all the staff of Moray College UHI would wish to join me in congratulating James on this outstanding award. This accolade is well deserved and is testimony to his exceptional academic work and the personal commitment and determination he has demonstrated during his studies.”

Now he has completed his BSc, Jim is considering returning to complete the BSc (Hons) computing with the university next year.