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One of the first students to gain an undergraduate degree from University Centre Shrewsbury (UCS) has not only achieved the highest possible grade, but also a coveted position helping others to stay healthy.

Lauren Richards, from Priest Weston near Bishop’s Castle, one of the UCS Class of 2018, attained a First Class Honours Degree in Health and Exercise Science and has secured a key job as an Active Lifestyles Officer with Salford City Council.

The role involves leading health promotion and physical activity programmes for people with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. Such posts normally attract hundreds of applicants from around the country, many of whom have master’s degrees in addition to their undergraduate certificates.

When asked why she thought she overcame stiff competition to be offered the job, Lauren cited four reasons: recognised exercise qualifications as part of her degree; hundreds of hours of clinical experience; tutors able to adapt learning to her needs and ambitions; and gaining personal confidence and self-belief. 

She explained: “The degree in Health and Exercise Science at UCS required us to study theory and learn in the labs, but also, importantly, throughout the three year course we had to attain nationally recognised exercise professionals’ qualifications and attend real-life practical placements in exercise coaching, exercise referral and rehabilitation.

“Early in my first year, I transferred to UCS from another much larger typical university, where I felt I was “just another number”. Coming from a rural place like South Shropshire I realised that it wasn’t the learning that was a problem but my lack of confidence in finding my way in big crowds of competitive people. All of the staff at UCS, whether academics, Student Union and Support and in the Library, seemed to all work together and know the students’ strengths and weaknesses, which all added to building our confidence. Having now been challenged with working with people and patients on my placements and performing practical tests/exams in front of tutors and fellow students certainly built my confidence to a level where now I’m not afraid of the challenges of work and the demands of other people.”

Lauren’s tutor, Professor John Buckley, said: “University Centre Shrewsbury gives Sport and Exercise Science students a competitive advantage. Unlike many of the other 10,000 or so students who will graduate in that subject from other institutions in the UK this year, our course allows UCS students to apply for jobs, having had hundreds of hours of relevant experience already. It’s not just a degree, it’s a course that includes the necessary industry-specific qualifications that employers are looking for.”

John is Programme Leader in Exercise Science in Health and Medicine at UCS, and has over 30 years’ experience in Exercise Science and Rehabilitation. This includes being one of the founding partners of Shrewsbury’s Lifestyle Fitness and Physiotherapy Centre at Radbrook 21 years ago, and one of the architects of Shropshire’s Exercise Referral Scheme and the Cardiac Rehab and Exercise Centre, based at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.

In the past 15 years, John has gone on to serve on a number of UK and international panels, including at the World Health Organisation and the World Heart Federation, to establish standards in exercise and rehabilitation.

He added: “We are extremely proud of all our new graduates and what they have achieved, both academically and in terms of their qualifications and experience, which enable them to be work-ready.

“We look forward to seeing them graduate officially on September 28 at St Chad’s Church in Shrewsbury, where they will receive their degrees from the University of Chester’s Chancellor, Dr Gyles Brandreth, the acclaimed broadcaster, author and former politician.”

For further information on UCS, go to, call 01743 297185 or email

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University Centre Shrewsbury Health and Exercise Science Graduate