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Shrewsbury was filled with the happy smiling faces of people of all ages and from a variety of backgrounds as the town celebrated its first-ever university graduation ceremony.

University Centre Shrewsbury (UCS) welcomed its first group of undergraduates three years ago - and the time had come for them to be awarded their degrees on Friday (September 28).

Dr Gyles Brandreth, Chancellor of the University of Chester which established UCS with Shropshire Council, presented the students with their degree certificates and led a ceremonial procession through the town centre before the ceremony at St Chad’s Church.

It was a day of civic celebration, with town centre traders supporting the event by placing congratulatory posters in their windows and people standing to watch the procession or offer words of encouragement to students and their families.

Dr Brandreth said: “It was a wonderful day and a truly historic occasion for University Centre Shrewsbury, Shropshire and the higher education world in general.

“These graduates are pioneers and it was fitting to see them celebrating the culmination of three years’ hard work in front of their families, friends, university staff and the wider Shrewsbury community.

“My heartfelt congratulations go to all of our graduates, and I wish them happy and successful futures.”

More than 50 students attended the ceremony, along with three honorary graduates who were recognised for excellence in their respective fields.

The Right Reverend Mark Rylands received an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity (DD,) in recognition of his outstanding contribution to ministry in this country, with particular recognition of his role as former Bishop of Shrewsbury and his support to UCS as a member of the Advisory Board.

Professor Lalage Bown OBE, FRSE, FAcSS received an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt,) in recognition of her outstanding contribution to education and for her support of UCS.

Sir Neil Cossons OBE, FSA, FMA received an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt,) in recognition of his outstanding contribution to heritage and for his support of UCS as a member of the Advisory Board.

Provost of University Centre Shrewsbury and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Chester, Professor Anna Sutton, said the inaugural graduation was a significant milestone for the institution.

“It is testament to the hard work and dedication of a committed group of people, not least, of course, the students themselves, that we have reached this landmark in our history,” she said.

“UCS is going from strength-to-strength. As our first students celebrate their success, we have just welcomed our biggest cohort of new undergraduates who are starting their journey with us.

“Congratulations to all of our graduates - they are true pioneers and we wish them well in their future careers, many of which lie in Shrewsbury or Shropshire and demonstrate further how UCS is making a significant economic contribution to the town and county.”

University Centre Shrewsbury was established in 2014 by the University of Chester and Shropshire Council, with a vision of creating a distinctive institution, focused on high-quality teaching and research, fostering entrepreneurship and contributing to the community, with the long-term aspiration to become and independent university.

Leader of Shropshire Council, Councillor Peter Nutting, said: “On behalf of everyone at Shropshire Council, I congratulate University Centre Shrewsbury’s first students on their achievements, and wish them every success for the future.

“UCS came about as a result of a close and successful partnership between the Council and the University of Chester, who both had a strong desire to establish a university presence in our county town.

“We were delighted when UCS became a reality, and delighted when it opened its doors to its first students.

“Now, these pioneering students will be moving on, having not only successfully gained an undergraduate or postgraduate qualification, but having also played a crucial role in the growth and success of UCS.”

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