Students Staff

Student experience

13 July 2018

Making it happen – whatever the score

Filed under: Latest news, Student experience, What's on — Communications, CER @ 11:06 am

Our Make Happen students have been on campus for their residential summer school.

Year 12 students from Essex and beyond cheered for England from their residential summer school on Colchester Campus this week.

Their schedule was changed to allow them the chance to catch the game during their busy week –  living the student life,  staying in halls of residence and checking out what university offers them.

The summer schools are being run by the University of Essex and Make Happen – the collaborative outreach programme aimed at inspiring the young people of Essex to look at higher education as a route to achieving their ambitions.

The focus for some of the students at this week’s Make Happen residential  summer school is sport science – and the young people have been learning about working in elite sports, using movement and exercise to rehabilitate injuries and how to use cutting edge performance analysis techniques in coaching.

The students enjoyed watching the England match as part of their experience of living on campus

Make Happen’s Luke French said  “ It’s the dream of many of our guests to work in elite sport, you never know  we may have the England Football Team coach  or physio for the 2022 World Cup in our midst!”

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6 June 2018

Enter our data analysis competition for your chance to win £200

Filed under: Latest news, Student experience — Communications Office @ 12:31 pm

UKDA logoHave you used data for secondary analysis in your final year project or dissertation at Essex? We’re offering a prize for your research!

We’re looking for research that highlights social and economic issues and also showcases an interesting re-use of quantitative or qualitative data, available through the UK Data Archive.

The Essex Secondary Data Analysis Award is open to each level of study including undergraduate, Masters and PhD. A panel of lecturers and researchers across the Faculty of Social Sciences will judge the entries.

The winning candidate from each level of study will receive a prize of £200 in Amazon vouchers. Through the UK Data Archive at Essex, the winners will also get to showcase their quantitative and qualitative skills to the wider academic community, plus potential employers such as The Wellcome Trust and Cancer Research UK.

The winning entries and their key findings will be publicised in Essex Weekly and on the Essex website (if the winning students and their supervisors give permission).

How to enter

You’ll need to  submit an executive summary (two A4 pages maximum) outlining your research question, data used, methodology, results and example of your evidence such as table, graph or excerpt from interview transcript of your course work to the UK Data Archive.

Before you submit, please check for completeness and clarity of any graphs and illustrations, and accurate data citation

The deadline is 16 September 2018

We’ll contact shortlisted candidates by the end of September, and ask you to submit an electronic copy of your full work. Then we’ll announce the winners in October.

Terms and Conditions

The competition is open to any Essex students who have used quantitative or qualitative data available through the UK Data Archive in their research. This can include mixed methods approaches if one of the data sources is available from the UK Data Archive. Work submitted that does not use data from the UK Data Archive will be disqualified.

This competition is open to any undergraduate, Masters or PhD student enrolled at the University of Essex in any discipline for third year projects or dissertations on social and economic issues. Essex alumni or staff currently working at Essex who submitted dissertations in the last two years can enter. Entries can be submitted either by individuals or by department and schools.

By entering the competition, you hereby warrant that all information submitted by you is true, current and complete. The UK Data Archive reserves the right to verify the eligibility of all entrants.

For further details please contact the UK Data Archive.

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1 June 2018

Being an Essex Intern changed my life – let it change yours too!

Filed under: Campus news, Student experience — Laura Mathias @ 10:57 am
Recent graduate, Mihaela Popova, reflects on her time as an Essex Intern

Recent graduate, Mihaela Popova, reflects on her time as an Essex Intern

My name is Mihaela and I am just about to finish my internship as an Executive Support Project Officer in the Vice-Chancellor and Registrar’s Office (VCRO). I graduated from the University in 2017 with a BA in International Relations. During my years at Essex, I worked close to full time to support myself, so I didn’t really take part in many extracurricular activities, such as volunteering, and my CV was a bit bare. I knew that, in order to get a rewarding job, I needed to gain more experience, so I decided to sign up for Essex Interns. And what can I say, to this day, it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.

I was receiving emails about different internships from Essex Interns almost every day and there was a wide variety of opportunities to choose from. However, I didn’t want to apply for just anything, I wanted to apply for an internship I felt I was right for. I waited for a while and then I received an email about a research orientated internship in the VCRO. When I read the job description, I knew I was perfect for the job. I put a lot of effort into my cover letter and I contacted the Employability and Careers Centre to review it. The staff were amazing and provided support and guidance throughout my application. Still, I read it over and over again and submitted it at the very last minute (typical). I was quickly invited to interview, and got the internship! I was so happy, I knew I was perfect for the job and was glad that the panel thought so too.

I started the role in November on a four month contract and immediately felt like a part of the team. I was extremely grateful for having a chance to work in the Executive Office of the University. Looking back now, I am even more grateful to my amazing manager who trusted me with so many different tasks. She gave me support through the completion of my assignments and even arranged for me to meet members of staff working in the areas I was interested in. She was always providing me with different development opportunities, which is really the point of Essex Interns.

Although the internship was mostly research orientated, there was so much more to it – I helped with events management, focus groups, I set up a survey, created the University organisation structure chart, selected artwork, supervised students, and so much more. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t easy but it was rewarding. I worked really hard and got offered an extension to my contract… twice! I was so happy, I felt that my hard work was being recognised and appreciated – I had never felt that way before.

Now we’re approaching the end of my internship and I can honestly say that these last seven months have been incredible. I have learnt so much and I don’t even know how to explain how much I will miss the time I’ve spent in the VCRO. I met amazing people, inside and out of the office. I was able to attend meetings and talk to senior members of staff which has made me confident and improved my communication skills dramatically. I used to be this shy girl with the empty CV and now I am a confident young woman with a great set of skills. I will be forever grateful to everyone in the VCRO, especially my manager who supported me from day one. My experience was outstanding and I’m really sad that it’s coming to an end but it’s time to start the next chapter.

I strongly advise graduates to pursue intern opportunities because they really are a once in a lifetime experience which will open a lot of doors. As an intern, you will meet professionals around the University and you’ll build connections and networks which will benefit you in the future. All internships are different but they will teach you the same thing – it doesn’t matter whether you’re a student or graduate, the University will help you achieve your goals, you just need to let it.

One last word of advice from me: if you’re in your final year, make sure you seek the help of the Employability & Careers team and Essex Interns. I have them to thank for everything!

 

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11 May 2018

A new vision for our wellbeing services

Filed under: Latest news, People pages, Student experience — Communications, CER @ 11:16 am

Angela Jones is our Head of Student Support. Here she tells us about the new vision for our wellbeing services.

We have a new vision for our well being services which will mean a better service for our students.

We have a new vision for our well being services which will mean a better service for our students.

What sort of changes are going on in the wellbeing team/service?

Our team is made up of dedicated staff committed to student wellbeing – we are always reflecting on our services and thinking about how we can make them better for our students.  We’ve recognised that changes in society and growth in student numbers mean we need to develop our services. National (and international) research has identified new ways of supporting and promoting wellbeing and we want to be able to implement these innovations. We are therefore reconfiguring our offer – while we will continue to provide or support the services we offer at present, we are proposing to expand into new areas. We want to work proactively with the Students’ Union, Occupational Health and other internal and external partners to support prevention and help our students thrive and get the most out of their time at Essex.  Our new vision is, as part of the Healthy University Sub-strategy, to create a healthy and inclusive community in which every student has the tools to enable them to succeed:

Are these physical moves/changes?

No.  Our service will continue to be provided in Southend, Loughton and Colchester and accessed via the Student Hub is each of these locations.

How will the changes impact on staff/students?

The whole reason behind the changes is to respond to student need and demand.  Feedback via the SU change week has identified a clear desire for more interventions, a wider range of support and more counselling.  Feedback from students with individual needs has identified as need to make our community more inclusive.  Responding to this feedback, our proposed restructure will increase significantly the volume of counselling we can offer as well as create roles dedicated to launching new activities and working with academic colleagues in departments to improve inclusivity and support students.

Is there a period where we will be directed somewhere else for support? For the majority of students no.  Services will continue as normal. If changes may affect individual students eg, for some DSA funded provision,  we will work closely with them to support them through any change.

How will this impact support that students receive?

  • Availability for student counselling at Colchester Campus will increase by 30%
  • By increasing appointments with a wellbeing assessor, we will reduce the waiting time for students to be seen
  • More one to one and groups will be available – tell us what you think would be most useful to prioritise

Why is wellbeing so important?

Physical and mental health is important for all of us.  We all experience periods of feeling great, and times when we are below par.  In order to thrive and get the most out of life, we need to take care of our health.  That is why we are proposing to tackle the issue of wellbeing in a holistic and proactive way- we don’t want to wait until someone is unwell to act – as part of the broader agenda of being a Heathy University, epitomised by our new HUSS, we want to help our students be well, stay well and get well. We can then play a part in making sure every member of our community is given the tools to achieve their full potential.

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27 October 2017

Zero tolerance of sexual violence, harassment or hate crime

Filed under: Campus news, Latest news, People pages, Student experience — Communications, CER @ 3:14 pm

The University of Essex does not tolerate any acts of sexual violence, harassment, or hate crime.

Zero tolerance means that we will take action and that the action will be proportionate to the circumstances of the case.

We recognise that the issue of sexual violence, harassment and hate crime is a global problem, but we are doing what we can  to tackle it here – and are working hard to put a stop to it in our community.

In March our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anthony Forster, set out our commitment to being an inclusive community with a zero tolerance of hate crime and sexual violence.

Since then, work has progressed. Here’s an update of what we’ve achieved so far:

Progress on the Tackling Sexual Violence, Harassment and Hate Crime Project

We have a high level University Action Plan. Our Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jules Pretty, is the senior lead for this work, and the Director of Human Resources and the Academic Registrar are the people responsible for delivering the actions, all of which will be completed by the end of the academic year 2017–18.

A Project Officer has been appointed until July 2018 to support the implementation of the University’s Action Plan, and to work with colleagues from across the University and the Students’ Union to embed activity to shape the institutional culture in relation to sexual violence, harassment and hate crime.

Prevention

The university now offers bystander intervention awareness workshops. Bringing in the Bystander® is a bystander intervention workshop with a robust evidence-base. Rather than focusing strictly on the roles of perpetrator and victim, the highly interactive curriculum focuses on what you can do to intervene. It teaches bystanders how to safely intervene in instances where sexual violence, relationship violence or stalking may be occurring or where there may be risk that it will occur.

Book your place online now.

Watch our #ItEndsNow videos on YouTube and Vimeo

These workshops will help students, academics, professional services staff and community members to:

  • IDENTIFY behaviours on a continuum of violence
  • DEVELOP empathy for those who have experienced violence
  • PRACTICE safe and appropriate intervention skills
  • COMMIT to intervene before, during and after an incident of sexual abuse, relationship violence and stalking occurs

Read our guidelines for dealing with harassment and bullying.

Reporting and support

Contact itendsnow@essex.ac.uk for information and support. If an assault has just taken place and you are not in a safe place, feel at risk, or have any injuries that require urgent attention, call the emergency services on 999.

If you are on campus, please follow the guidance available online about emergency contacts.

If you are living in University accommodation on the Southend or Colchester campuses, Security can alert senior on-call Residence Life staff.

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17 October 2017

“Southend is like home to me now”

Filed under: Latest news, Student experience — Heather Leathley @ 3:07 pm

Wherever you come from to study at Essex, the advice is the same, when you get here make sure you get out and about to make new friends and enjoy new experiences.

An image of Ernest Nyarko

Ernest Nyarko

Ernest Nyarko, the Students’ Union VP Southend explains how it felt to move to Essex from his home in Ghana.

“I had 12 offers from UK universities and I choose the Essex Business School at the University of Essex’s Southend Campus as the content of the course really interested me. After completing my degree in Ghana I wanted to go abroad to study, to experience other cultures and network with different people.

“I had never been to the UK before and I landed in Birmingham, from Dubai. My first impression was that it was pretty cold.

“The Southend Campus was also completely different. My university in Ghana was twice the size of the Colchester Campus so Southend Campus was quite small to me, though I have found this has plenty of advantages to it.

“It got dark so early here as well, I couldn’t figure out when I was meant to go to bed. The cold meant I had to wear a jacket and  that took a while to get used to.

“In class in Ghana I was quite timid, but when I started at Essex I became a course rep and started to make friends. The previous Vice President  of the Students’ Union in Southend urged me to stand for election and he finally persuaded me on the last day for nominations.

“My mother and brother laughed at me for doing it, but my brother said if you lose we will laugh, but it won’t be for long.

“I learnt a lot the first year so I decided to stand for a second year to put that learning into practice.

“Southend is like home to me now, it is a very calm place. I know everyone on Campus now and people in the High Street say hello. If you are coming to Essex from another country, I would say just put yourself out there, make the most of your course and be friendly.  That’s how I live my life in the UK.”

When Ida Bjorneras  (pictured centre) arrived from southern Norway to study for a PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) at the Colchester Campus,  she was overjoyed to see autumn for the second time in the same year. “When I left Norway the leaves had already fallen and then I saw it again at Colchester,  it was stunning to see, ” she said.

Ida Bjorneras holding certificate

Ida Bjorneras (centre)

“People in the UK are very friendly, you can strike up a conversation in a supermarket. Everyone on Campus is very sociable too and there is  an amazing atmosphere with so many different nationalities in one place.

“I would advise all students to get out and about as much as possible. Join as many clubs as you can, I went on to be President of the Equestrian Society. The people you meet will shape your whole experience.

“I was introduced to curries and love those. I’ve back in Norway now having finished my PPE degree and Masters course, but I make sure I have a curry whenever I am in the UK visiting my University friends.”

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28 September 2017

We know how you feel!

Filed under: People pages, Student experience — Heather Leathley @ 2:40 pm
Heather and Manda, our "empty nest survivors"

Heather and Manda, our “empty nest survivors”

As two ’empty nest survivors’, Manda and Heather, who compose our friends@essex newsletter, appreciate that friends and families will have a lot of questions as they watch new undergraduates head off to University.

Manda’s daughter has just started at Liverpool and Heather’s daughter has completed her degree here at Essex.

Here are a few of their top tips for getting through the first few weeks:

  • It’s a real balancing act – walking the tightrope between interested and interfering parent.  And when students are heading off to university, even the most laidback of parents have their moments when they are in danger of crossing the line.
  • When you get to the new bedroom, prop the door ajar while you unload.  If you keep the bedroom door open in those valuable first few hours, it’s a welcome sign to all the other flatmates, who can pop their heads in to say hello. All the bedrooms have fire doors, so wedging the door open shouldn’t become a habit.
  • You may be planning a big supermarket shop before you head off.  There’s a large Tesco near the Colchester Campus and the best advice is to get there as early as possible.  By mid-afternoon on arrivals day it can be very chaotic.
  • In Southend, there’s a large Sainsbury’s supermarket opposite University Square, so no car required.  It is open 10am until 4pm on Sundays. In each kitchen at University Square you will find some cotton tote bags which can be used to carry back the shopping.
  • Disappear for an hour or so for a cup of tea and then come back to say goodbye. It doesn’t make that farewell too final and gives you both time to compose yourselves. It’s one of the reasons we now offer free tea and scones at Wivenhoe House on Arrivals Day, Sunday 1 October between 11am and 3pm.
  • In Southend you can blow off the cobwebs with a stroll on the promenade. It’s a good excuse for an ice-cream!
  • Let your student be the first to make contact, after you’ve departed for the journey home. It’s their moment to spread their wings and you don’t want to cramp their style by calling every 10 minutes, especially if you are having a whale of a time at home.
  • Be tough if you get that gut-wrenching homesick call. It will be one of the hardest things you have to do as a parent, but you have to do it, otherwise it could lead to regrets and recriminations on both sides.
  • If you head back during term-time for a visit, make a few frozen packs of a favourite family meal, in individual and group size. But whatever you do, don’t turn up unannounced!!!
  • A few silly little presents through the post can be a nice touch, even the most stoical of students will welcome the odd surprise gift or two.

Just remember, Christmas isn’t that far away.

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9 August 2017

Welcome 2017 needs you!

Filed under: Campus news, Latest news, Student experience, What's on — Communications, CER @ 12:17 pm
We can all do our bit to help our new students feel they belong at Essex.

We can all do our bit to help our new students feel they belong at Essex.

Welcome 2017 is fast approaching and this year we want to deliver an even bigger and better Welcome experience; giving everyone the opportunity to get involved in creating a warm and friendly atmosphere for our new students.

This year’s welcome theme is belonging. We want every student to enjoy a smooth arrival, to feel that we care about them, that we’ll help them settle in and find friends – and that they belong at Essex.

But creating a sense of belonging, in so many different people, from so many different places and with so many different backgrounds isn’t going to be easy – and that’s where you come in.

We would like everyone, no matter what their role or position within our University, to be part of our Welcome team. We want our new students to be greeted by smiling faces, by staff that are willing to help, to help them find their way around campus and to make them feel like an important part of our unique community.

Research conducted by our own Dr Gillian Sandstrom has shown that students who feel a stronger sense of belonging are more likely to complete their degree and demonstrate higher achievement in their studies.

You can read more about Dr Sandstrom’s fascinating research in her interview on Essex Daily. Our Head of Residence Life, Victoria Frost, also shares her thoughts on how students who feel they matter to their university are more likely to succeed – and how all of us can play our part no matter what our role.

If you are able to take this one step further and volunteer for an official role as part of Arrivals Day, registration or Welcome, please fill in our quick form, letting us know your availability during the Welcome period and the kind of duties you’d be happy to perform. Take a look at Registration roles to see which you could volunteer for.

Graduation 2017 was a fantastic example of what a great event we can run if we all pull together. If you volunteered for Graduation – we’d love your help during Welcome, and if you didn’t – now’s your chance to lend a hand.

We very much appreciate any help you can give during this exciting time for our University. Welcome is our chance to show our Essex Spirit at its finest; to work together to show what a warm and welcoming place our campus is.

We hope everyone will embrace the chance to get involved.

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26 July 2017

Welcome 2017 – your role in helping new students feel they belong

Filed under: Latest news, People pages, Student experience — Communications, CER @ 3:40 pm

Did you know that students who feel a stronger sense of belonging are more likely to complete their degree, and demonstrate higher achievement in their studies? During Welcome 2017, we can all play a part in helping students feel that they belong. 

We spoke to Dr Gillian Sandstrom and Head of Residence Life, Victoria Frost, about how even saying “hello” to someone new can make a big difference to their experience settling in at Essex.

Dr Gillian Sandstrom

Dr Gillian Sandstrom

  • Tell us about your study Social Interaction and Well-Being: The Surprising Power of Weak Ties.

When I first arrived on campus there was quite a distance between the research lab and my supervisor’s office, and that walk took me past a hot dog stand. Somehow I developed a “relationship” with the lady who worked there; I would smile at her and say “hi” whenever I walked past. I realized that this always made me feel a bit better, like I belonged on campus. I ended up studying this phenomenon for my PhD.

I found that people who had, on average, more daily interactions with weak ties (i.e acquaintances) than other people were, on average, a little bit happier. Also, on days when people had more interactions with weak ties than they usually did, they tended to be a bit happier than they usually were.

I’ve been at Essex for two years now, and almost every time I walk across campus now, I see someone I know. It makes me feel at home here.

  • What can staff do to build these weak ties with students?

Just say “hi!” I ran a study involving my students. For one group, I stood at the door and greeted students as they arrived. Another group wrote their names on name boards, which were displayed on their desks. The third was a control group, which received no greeting and no name boards. Students in both of the experimental groups reported higher interest/enjoyment than students in the control group. This is something simple, that any instructor can do. Just make sure it’s genuine; if the students think your heart isn’t in it, it probably won’t be effective.

It’s not just academic staff that can build these connections with students. I stood on the pavement outside Starbucks, and bribed people to help with my research, by giving them Starbucks cards, which they had to use right away to buy a coffee. I asked some people to have their money ready and avoid unnecessary conversation.  I asked other people to have a genuine social interaction: smile, make contact, and have a brief conversation. When surveyed I found that people who had a minimal social interaction were in a better mood, enjoyed their experience more, and felt more connected to other people. This means everyone can make a difference, whether you’re in food services, cleaning services, security, or anything else.

  • What are the benefits to weak ties – apart from wellbeing?

Besides making both parties feel good, weak ties can provide a sense of belonging. One of my undergraduate students ran a survey assessing students’ campus involvement, use of support services, and social relationships, and how these were related to interest/enjoyment and belonging. Students who reported that more staff greeted them on campus also reported greater interest/enjoyment and a greater sense of belonging. This is crucial, because research shows that students who feel a stronger sense of belonging are more likely to complete their degree, and demonstrate higher achievement in their studies.

 

Victoria Frost is head of Residence Life and Student Development as part of our Student Support service.  She plays a vital role in the smooth running of our Arrivals and Welcome programmes and believes that we all have a part to play in creating the right welcoming atmosphere for new students.

Victoria Frost

Victoria Frost

Tell us about the “belonging” theme being applied to Arrivals and Welcome this year – what are we trying to achieve?

There’s a student development theory by Nancy Schlossberg called Mattering and Marginality. If a student feels like they matter to someone at the university, they get more involved in their university experience and develop and learn more. Feeling marginalised can be defined as a sense of not fitting in and can lead to self-consciousness, irritability, and depression. People are more likely to feel marginalised during transition periods, like starting university. It’s so important that students feel like they belong at the University of Essex.

  • How can the principles of “weak ties” be applied to Arrivals Day and Welcome?

We would love it if staff helped students find their way around, showed them the Find Your Way app, engaged them in conversation or introduced them to other students. If you see someone who looks lost, scared, or uncomfortable, go up and ask if you can help. Think about what you can do to help students get to know each other, in departmental events, in lectures, while they’re waiting in a queue. Even just smiling and saying hello can make a difference.

  • What about those who aren’t in student-facing roles? Can they play a part?

Absolutely! Everyone is involved in making students feel like they matter. Most staff will encounter students at some point in their day. You’re likely to pass someone walking to your office, or back home again. It might be during lunch, or walking to a meeting or someone else’s office. Wherever you see a student, there’s an opportunity to use a weak tie, to make them feel like they matter.

  • If I see someone looking lost or alone – should I approach them? Even though that isn’t my job?

Please do. Colchester Campus can be really confusing to navigate for new people (actually, sometimes even for those of us who have been here for years!). It can make a big difference to just offer some help. Whatever you’re able to do.  Helping a student to build confidence and develop competence can help them feel like they belong here.

  • If I don’t know how to direct someone – who should I refer them to?

If it’s about trying to find a location and you don’t know it, walk the student to the Information Centre if you can. For a lot of student service queries, refer the student to the Student Information Desk on the first floor of the Silberrad Student Centre. They’re a really knowledgeable team and can answer a lot of questions or make a further referral if appropriate.

  • Does the “weak ties” theory apply just to Arrivals and Welcome? Or does it apply all year round?

It’s definitely applicable, throughout the year and actually throughout the student’s entire time at the University of Essex. It’s applicable for undergraduate and postgraduate students too. It is particularly important at the beginning of each year; there’s evidence that the first six weeks are the most important time period for making sure a student feels that sense of belonging.

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12 June 2017

Rebel Radio’s election night special

Filed under: Campus news, Student experience — Tags: — Communications Office @ 5:08 pm
Students at Rebel Radio

Students broadcasting live during election night

Rebel Radio, the University’s student radio station, ran an all-night election special in association with our journalism students, Here, journalism student Alex Maxam gives his report on the night.

 

Rebel, the university’s student media collective, had extensive and in-depth coverage of election night with both a live radio show and a live blog.

With coverage spanning from 10pm until 6.30am, Rebel Radio was on air with Thomas Rowson, Lauren Moore and Chantel Le Carpentier providing news and analysis throughout. There were also bulletins every half hour provided by students from the Multimedia Journalism course, which featured the latest updates and reaction from an exciting and unpredictable election night.

The live blog, run by Jesse Harrison Lowe and Rowena Field-Carter, was updated on a nearly minute by minute basis.

Thanks to weeks of planning from Jesse, who led the project, Rebel had reporters down at the Colchester count to provide insight as to how it was going, as well as reporters in the Students’ Union Bar to get student reaction to what was happening. The blog also announced the Colchester result faster than both the BBC and Sky.

Rebel had a determined team of 14 students working through the night to provide the coverage, as well as eight Multimedia Journalism students and three lecturers. The tireless effort from everyone involved was all worthwhile with excellent radio and blog coverage of the night, as well as providing an invaluable experience for those involved.

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