James Fraser, University of the Highlands and Islands principal and vice-chancellor said: “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. I would like to congratulate Jim and all the other Student of the Year candidates and wish them well in their future endeavours.”

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.”

Congratulations to Jim for this fantastic achievement. Below he tells his story:

“I was not very academic at school and left with only 2 O’levels. However, I was always active physically - school cross-country champion for 2 years and then I took up Martial Arts at 19 achieving a black belt and eventually teaching kids. I had to give this up when my dystonia started.

When I was 30, I woke up one morning with a stiff neck. After lots of test and numerous medical experts, I was diagnosed as having dystonia. I received botulinum toxin injections for the next 25 years. I got a lot of benefit from this treatment as it allowed me to hold my head straight and look forward. The experts decided to start lengthening the time between injections and at the moment the injections have stopped and I can still hold my head straight.

I was able to start my own business when I was 35 but, although my neck improved over time, my overall condition got worse and more and more time was spent in a wheelchair I eventually had to retire from work at 48. When I was 50 my decided to do some further blood tests and from this diagnosed me a further complication called Friedreich’s Ataxia.

Early retirement meant I had a lot of spare time so I decided to start college at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) with the intention of trying for an HNC in Computing and ended up with a BSc with Distinction. In my final year I also managed to achieve 3 awards:

  • UHI/Fujitsu Student of the Year
  • Moray College Student of the Year
  • Overall UHI Student of the Year

Time outside College now is taken up with helping people establish and continue with their presence online where I can put some of the things I learned at College to good use. I am considering returning to College next year to try for a BSc (Hons) in Computing.

Many congratulations Jim, from all at the Dystonia Society!