An artist fought back tears after being honoured by her former university.

Alison Lapper MBE was given a standing ovation at Brighton Dome as she received a University of Brighton honorary Doctor of Arts yesterday. The 49-year-old, who graduated with first class honours in fine art from in 1993, was honoured for her contribution to the arts and as an ambassador for those with disabilities.

Born without arms and shortened legs, Alison uses photography, digital imaging and painting to question physical normality and beauty.

She is best-known as the inspiration for fellow artist Marc Quinn’s sculpture of her which was displayed in Trafalgar Square in 2007.

Alison was “completely overwhelmed” by the special recognition. She said: “I never imagined in all these years that I would be back here to receive this amazing honour.

“The fact that I came away with a first class degree still blows my mind ... but I never felt like I was the only disabled student, although I was. I was able to do everything everyone else did.”

Professor Bruce Brown, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research), in presenting the award, described Alison as a “Titan of the human spirit” and a force for everything that is good.

He said: “Alison's creative intelligence has served to challenge and change our notions of physical beauty, normality, disability and sexuality."