Singapore Showcase: How & Why are Universities Embracing Esports?

Ahead of Esports Insider’s latest industry conference, ESI Singapore (20-21st June), we delve into the context behind an upcoming panel on education and esports.

Esports Education
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The topic of esports in education is slowly becoming one of the most talked about discussions in the industry. This is largely due to higher education institutions looking to provide their own pathways into the sector, encouraged by a ballooning collegiate competitive scene. 

Whether it’s through extra-curricular classes, esports societies or full-blown degrees, the point has been made that universities worldwide are embracing esports. But, Why is this happening now?

In the UK, Staffordshire became the first university to launch a dedicated esports degree in 2017. Six years later, and now there are at least 20 institutions that offer degrees in the UK alone. These span from general education about esports, to more tailored degrees that focus on production and management. All share the goal of creating the next esports industry professionals.  

The development of esports educational opportunities follows the rising popularity, and professionalism, of the sector. As times start changing, universities need to ensure that they adapt to increasingly digitally savvy generations. A report by the UK Government in 2019 highlighted that 82% of job openings in the UK require digital skills, further showcasing the need for universities to adapt. 

Whilst it’s refreshing to see esports starting to become a part of educational curriculums, its integration has had some hurdles — perhaps somewhat expected given most of these opportunities are in their infancy. One of the biggest criticisms faced is the necessity of studying an esports degree. If the goal is to become an esports journalist, is it more worthwhile to enrol in a Journalism degree and specialise afterwards? 

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Interested in this topic? On June 20th-21st ESI Singapore will be delivering an engaging panel featuring major industry stakeholders on this very subject! Secure your tickets now

Discover the future of esports, uncovered, as we deliver unmatched networking on the Singapore River, enriching industry discussions, delicious F&B and a fun evening reception!

This criticism is typically more pointed towards more generic esports degrees and courses that don’t typically focus on one specific aspect of the industry — whether that’s management, production, events, coaching etc. An Esports News UK report in 2021 looked into the criticisms faced by one such ‘Esports’ degree.

These fears are somewhat being quelled with the rise of more tailored courses such as Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies’ Esports Production (BSc), Sheffield Hallam University’s Esports Management (BA) and University of Chichester’s Esports and Sports Media (BA) courses. 

Speaking on Esports Insider’s The Industry Podcast, Gin Rai, Esports Manager at Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies, discussed the development of esports degrees. He said: “Fundamentally to develop a degree in anything, it has to have tangible outcomes, there needs to be employment opportunities at the end of it… At the end of the day, education is a business — it needs to run. Universities, they need funding and all this sort of stuff and the funding comes from schemes and recruitment.

“It’s been a struggle for some universities, it’s been a struggle in all education. If we go back 20 years and we try to think about games technology courses coming about and the challenges faced with that. To then see esports in the same light and in the same vein, it’s gonna go through the same iterations of challenge, just faster.” 

However, the true success of these programmes will depend on the employment rate of their cohorts. Given the infancy of these courses, their effectiveness has yet to be fully tested.

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Creating degrees though isn’t the only way that universities have embraced esports. One of the more conventional ways has been through the creation of societies and clubs on the competitive side of the industry. In the UK, the most successful esports society is at Warwick University, with its club regularly competing in, and winning, University esports competitions across a range of titles. It’s important to note that the University of Warwick also doesn’t have a degree programme. 

Outside of the UK though, there are a variety of interesting initiatives being done by universities to promote esports. Philippines-based company AcadArena is currently providing esports scholarships and hosting campus esports leagues to bolster the university scene in Southeast Asia. Recently, the company announced scholarships under 100 Thieves creators Valkyrae and Fuslie.

Esports scholarships are also incredibly prominent in North America, with the collegiate scene developing its infrastructures every passing year. Currently, over 250 educational institutions within the US are a part of the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) directory. In comparison, 111 university’s competed in NSE this year in the UK. 

NASEF, in particular, is a body that promotes esports at the collegiate level, runs middle school and high school-level esports competitions, and helps organise esports qualifications.

In order to ensure that educational opportunities in esports are being delivered in the correct manner, constant discussion is important between industry stakeholders. This is why Esports Insider’s latest esports industry conference, ESI Singapore, will be holding a panel on this very subject.  

If you wish to join in on this discussion, and contribute your own thoughts or questions, then make sure you grab a ticket here! ESI Singapore commences June 20th-21st. 

Tom Daniels
Tom has been part of Esports Insider's team since October 2020 and is currently the platform's Editor. When not playing Football Manager, he enjoys reporting on the mobile esports scene as well as the betting sector.