Spa pioneer returns to University to seek managers of the future

Stephanie Duchak pictured at the Industry Networking Day
One of the first people in the world to graduate in International Spa Management returned to Buxton to meet the students

Date posted: 6 March 2017

One of the first people in the world to graduate in International Spa Management returned to Buxton to meet the students who followed in her footsteps at the University of Derby – and head-hunt a few at the same time..

Stephanie Duchak, who was in the first cohort to graduate in 2005 from the University’s pioneering Spa management course, came back for an Industry Networking Day to pick out the stars of the future as employees at the award-winning Manchester Bali Health Lounge, which she manages.

Her degree took her straight into a managerial role in a spa in Malta because her boss recognised its potential even though he’d never heard of one before!

“I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for,” said Stephanie about her decision to join the world’s first Spa degree course, then taught at the University’s Harpur Hill site in Buxton after completing a Leisure and Tourism GNVQ in her native Greater Manchester.

Stephanie added: “This just jumped out at me as it sounded really interesting. I didn’t come with a beauty background so everything was new to me then.”

The Buxton Campus now has the commercial Devonshire Spa – voted the UK Day Spa of the Year in 2016 - where undergraduates train.

But Harpur Hill was not quite so luxurious, said Stepahanie.

“When I started we had about five books in the library and we’d fight over them. We had a room where all the beds were separated by was shower curtains. Now they just have the most amazing facilities.”

But it was the quality of teaching and the fact that the course included a year’s placement abroad that mattered.

“I thought: This is definitely me – this is my calling and life. I did my year’s placement in Malta and when I graduated it was hard to find somewhere in England because no-one then recognised the degree.

“I knew I wanted to do management, so I applied again in Malta and got offered an assistant manager’s role straight away. Two years later I was promoted to manager, and I stayed there for six years.”

Derby’s Spa degrees are now the industry’s  gold standard, something Stephanie’s boss in Malta recognised straight away.

“He’d never heard of it, but thought it was the best way getting into the industry. You could be an amazing therapist but this course gives you the opportunity to learn the management side and that’s why he offered a managerial position straight away.”

Stephanie came home to manage spas in hotels in Manchester, including The Lowry, and now manages the Bali Health Lounge in the city, which has won the English Hair and Beauty award for Spa of the Year for the North for the last two years has just been nominated for the award again. 

At the Bali, Stephanie is once again ahead of the UK industry thanks to the University’s emphasis on wellness – which looks at the client as a whole person, not just someone who wants a relaxing treat.

“That’s the way the industry is going,” she said. “From working abroad and working in England, that’s the massive difference. Abroad, we were much more holistic, concentrating on the clients and their wellbeing rather than just pamper sessions.”

Now she is looking for the Stephanie Duchacks of the future as the Bali Health Lounge business plans major expansion - and her old University is the place to go.

“It just goes to show how good the course is that it can go from 15 of us in Harpur Hill to this amazing site,” she said.

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For further press information please contact:

John Phillips, University of Derby Buxton Community Liaison Officer

Direct dial: 01298 330461