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Journalism students from 13 universities across the UK joined together last week to cover the UK election results from constituency counts around the country.

The Vote 2017 programme, which was broadcast on community radio station Radio Lab University of Bedfordshire (97.1 FM) and livestreamed online, was overseen by the Broadcast Journalism Training Council (BJTC) to give the 40 participating students the opportunity to be part of a national story.

"Theresa May obviously didn't consult the academic calendar when she called the election," joked Kate Ironside, the programme's executive producer and senior journalism lecturer at the University of Bedfordshire.

"The students had gone home for the summer and the vast majority of universities weren't running an election programme – but we decided to turn this weakness into a strength.

"The students had left their campuses, but as long as they were in the UK they were somewhere with a count going on, so it actually increased our demographic reach."

Students from Radio Lab at the University of Bedfordshire planned and produced the programme, while the others spread over the UK in places such as Cornwall, Hampshire, Hereford, Sunderland, Suffolk, Leeds, Luton, as well as constituencies in Wales and Scotland.

"We actually had a student in Majorca giving us the views of the Brits abroad who had done the postal vote," Ironside said, explaining the programme also included 11 pre-recorded packages about individual parties and policies.

Ironside provided the students with guidance on the key things they needed to know, giving them a briefing pack on their constituencies, highlighting who their constituency voted for in the last election or whether or not they voted for Brexit.

"We prepped them, but there was no point in holding their hands," she said.

"We just sat back and let them do it, and all credit to them because they did it – and it took a lot of gumption, especially for the first years, to go to the counts on their own and report live."

The students either called or used Skype on their mobile phones to contact Radio Lab, interviewing candidates at the counts, and produced a variety of Facebook Lives and liveblogging on Twitter as the night went on.

"Inevitably, we sometimes had connection difficulties, and there were times when there was a lot going on at once, and the students had to prioritise who to put live on air, but you get that in industry as well, and it's all part of the experience," she said.

Students at work throughout the night

"This was one hell of a general election, and a great experience for them to work through the night and see whether they could still function coherently at 4am in the morning – as they may well have to when they enter into the industry."

Lydia Flavell, from Nottingham Trent University, who covered Rossendale and Darwen, said she had positive reactions from the journalists she met on the night.

"I was talking to a reporter from BBC Lancashire who was very impressed with what we were doing, and said he wished he could have done something like this when he was training," she said.

"I'd never experienced an election count before, let alone stayed up that long on election night."

Liam O'Dell, a second year student at the University of Lincoln, covered the count in Mid Bedfordshire.

"Throughout the night, I was able to interview different candidates that were standing, whilst also taking part in live two-ways (outside broadcasts) with the studio," he said.

"What was great about the experience was just how much it replicated the fast-paced news atmosphere. If I wasn't keeping an eye on my phone for the next two-way, then I was transcribing interviews for social media or editing them for broadcast.

"The real challenge was getting all the tasks done in time and keeping on top of everything. If there's one thing I learned during my experience, it was that prioritising and organising your time, even when you're not in the studio, is essential."

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