Media Release: Moray student with rare conditions named IT student of year


A MORAY student who has overcome the challenges associated with having two rare genetic disorders has been named as the University of the Highlands and Islands’ first ever Fujitsu IT Student of the Year.

James Robertson (60) from Forres, a third-year BSc computing student at Moray College UHI, was selected for the award for his exceptional personal and academic achievement.

James 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 James uses a motorised wheelchair, tires easily and has difficulty with speaking, writing and typing.

Despite such challenges, James decided to undertake an HNC in computing on a part time basis at Moray College UHI in 2007. Since then, he has worked hard to attain excellent academic results and has just completed his BSc computing, which he will be awarded with distinction.

James was nominated for the IT award by his personal academic tutor, Dr Ian Barnes, a programme leader for the university’s computing degree. Dr Barnes explained:

“Considering the challenges Jim faces, it’s inspiring that he never has a bad word to say. He has excelled in his studies, consistently producing work that is well above the required standard and also contributes generously and freely in class and group work. The entire computing department at Moray College UHI supported Jim’s nomination as we believe his achievement in completing the degree is extraordinary.”

James was selected as the winner of the IT award by a panel of judges which included representatives from the university and Fujitsu, the world’s third largest IT service provider. The award has been established to recognise talent and help develop links between the university, its students and Fujitsu. As the first winner of the title, James will be presented with £500, donated by Fujitsu, and a signed certificate at his graduation in October.

James said: “I am extremely proud and delighted to have been selected for the inaugural Fujitsu IT Student of the Year award. My thanks go to the staff in the computing department at Moray College UHI for all their hard work, support and belief and to Dr Ian Barnes, the dean and the acting principal for their kind words of support.

“I am proud and honoured to be associated with such an important company as Fujitsu who are a major contributor, not only to the local economy, but globally also. My interest in computing started many years ago and I am now considering returning to complete my honours degree. As Aristotle once said: ‘The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.’”

Dr Iain Morrison, dean of students at the university, commented: “The university is delighted that James’ hard work and expertise has been recognised by Fujitsu. He is an extremely deserving winner and we are proud of him and all the other students who were nominated by staff for this award. Our aim is to produce graduates with the skills and qualities that will support our regional economy and this award is evidence that employers are increasingly recognising the high level attained by University of the Highlands and Islands students.”

Fujitsu sees the award as an opportunity for those aspiring to work in the ICT environment to showcase their talent and set the bar for students in the future. Russell Edwards, Fujitsu’s Inverness-based programme manager for end user services, explained: “We are a global organisation but with a very local profile. Supporting education at all levels is key to the future of the region and to the future of businesses recruiting locally, including Fujitsu.

“We see our commitment to the new IT Student of the Year award as an investment in our local talent and encouraging the workforce of the future.

“James’ story is truly inspiring and he is a worthy recipient of the inaugural award. It is also encouraging that all nominees have demonstrated the highest standards of academic achievement and the University of the Highlands and Islands should be commended for the calibre of the students across the university, from as far afield as Shetland to Perth.”

You can find out more about the University of the Highlands and Islands and its courses at


Notes to editors

University of the Highlands and Islands

The University of the Highlands and Islands is a partnership of thirteen further and higher education colleges, specialist colleges and research institutions, distributed throughout the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. They are bound together through constitutional, management and academic structures, and coordinated through an executive office.

There are currently over 7,000 students studying on undergraduate and postgraduate courses or undertaking postgraduate research with the university.

The University of the Highlands and Islands is the only university based in the Highlands and Islands.

Its purpose is to have a transformational impact on the development and prospects for the region, its people and its communities.

The University of the Highlands and Islands is a limited company registered in Scotland No. 148203. Scottish charity No. SC022228. Registered office: 12B, Ness Walk, Inverness, IV3 5SQ.


Fujitsu employs more than 161,000 people in over 100 countries with an annual group turnover of $47 billion. In Scotland the company now employs some 500 staff, about a fifth of whom are based in the Highlands.

Fujitsu injects more than £7 million a year into the region’s economy, including salaries and the use of local services, as well as support for local voluntary bodies and charities.

As part of the company’s £66 million partnership with The Highland Council, each school and local authority office in the area has seen its IT network upgraded. In all, more than 8,000 computer devices have been installed at 670 sites.

The region’s 61 community and school libraries have also been fitted out with 130 better, faster, more user-friendly computers in a separate project Fujitsu has carried out with the council and High Life Highland.

In addition, the company’s Community Benefits Programme (CBP) is investing £1.6 million on some 40 projects. This includes help to create new jobs and 300-plus training and employment opportunities for 16-17 year olds, young people and adults.

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Contact: Susan Szymborski
Phone: 01463279210