Student Shortlisted for The Herald Higher Education Awards

Argyll College UHI past student, John Frace has been shortlisted for The Herald Higher Education Awards in the category of Outstanding Contribution from a University Student, for his work creating a Covid tracking website.

John Frace, more widely known as @TravellingTabby is currently in his third year studying for a Business and Management BA (Hons) with the University of the Highlands and Islands. In 2020, he completed a HNC in Digital Design and Web Development with Argyll College UHI which he praises for his success of his Covid Tracker website.

“It didn’t teach me how to code an entire website from the ground up, but it did teach me the basics. And more importantly, it had a big focus on web design and what makes a good website good.”

The website, which originally started as a simple spreadsheet, now provides Scotland-specific data in granular detail, allowing communities across Scotland to learn about the data relevant to them. With continued updates and developments, such as the addition of vaccination data, the website is renowned for displaying crucial data in an easy to visualise and accessible way.

Since it’s creation in March last year, the website’s received UK-wide press coverage and acclaim from scientific experts. It has attracted 1.5 million users, and over 1,000 people log on every day at 3pm when the update is posted. John’s Twitter following has exploded to 22,800 followers, including Professors Devi Shridhar, Jason Leitch, Linda Bauld, and the First Minister.

When asked about the website, Professor Linda Bauld said, “People all around the country have stepped up to contribute to the pandemic response but John stands out as someone who has gone above and beyond. With his website he has provided easily accessible analysis and visualisation of coronavirus statistics from Scotland and the UK, alongside local data and international comparisons. These data are publicly available but often difficult to navigate from official sources. John has provided a vital public service, volunteering thousands of hours of his time to keep people informed. I have a daily file for media interviews and consult John's website every day as it is a one stop shop of information. If I'm speaking to a regional radio station I can instantly find the figures for that area on his dashboard. To examine which local authorities have had more or fewer cases in the past week I can find that in seconds on his 'local data' pages. Plus to track progress with the vaccine programme his visualisations have been invaluable. I am personally indebted to him for all he has contributed - as thousands of others around the country are.’’

Deservedly so, John has been shortlisted for the category ‘Outstanding Contribution from a University Student’ for the creation of his not-for-profit website. It is estimated he’s spent 1,500 hours (187 working days) over the past year on the site, whilst also keeping up with his full-time university studies. His selfless efforts have helped to improve many people’s experience of the most challenging year most of us have faced.

“I have received countless messages from people saying how the page has helped to ease their anxiety or make informed decisions for their family, which makes me so happy to hear.”

UHI Principal and Vice-Chancellor Todd Walker said, “John is a remarkable individual. At a time when others were thinking of themselves, John was thinking of others. John embodies the values of the University through his actions and leadership and sets an example and inspiration for others. We celebrate John for his innovation and selfless dedication.”

The Herald Higher Education Awards, which champion the best of Scotland's colleges and universities will be presented at a virtual awards evening on Thursday 17th June. We wish John the best of luck!