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If you’re into esports in some form and considering higher education then Staffordshire University has just announced a new course which may be of interest. Rachel Gowers, Staffordshire UniversityAn Esports BA, essentially an ‘esports business degree’, is now a viable option at the university in the midlands in the UK. It’s a three year programme at the Stoke-on-Trent campus and the inaugural haul of students will get started in September 2018. There are still details to be ironed out, and with a yearly fee of over £9,000 per year any applicants should give it serious consideration before embarking on the programme. It demands 112 UCAS points from would-be entrants. Having read the course outline we had some questions and so reached out to Rachel Gowers, Associate Dean at Staffordshire University Business School who was kind enough to provide us with the answers. Esports Insider: Who has been involved with the formation of this Esports BA business degree? How long has it been in the works…Rachel Gowers: This course originates from the vision of Staffordshire University to provide innovative and applied learning in response to employment opportunities in growth areas in the economy. We will be bringing together two areas of the university, and using the expertise of both to create a unique experience.The UKIE White Paper on esports states that it presents a huge opportunity to the UK. Whilst the market will continue to grow and develop naturally, combined commitment from government and industry to actively promote the sector, integrate it into policy thinking around growth and infrastructure plans (particularly regionally) and boost the talent flow into the sector will give the UK the inertia it needs to become a world leader in esports and play its part in growing the sector globally. The two areas of events management and games studies will work together to produce a new dynamic area of study for the university as proposed in the UKIE White Paper that states the desire to make the UK an esports hub. UKIE CEO Dr Jo Twist OBE said: ‘Like the video games that fuel it, the esports sector is now one of the fastest growing, most popular and vibrant categories of entertainment in the digitally driven economy.’ “We’ll be employing another lecturer prior to the course starting who is a specific esports expert”The White Paper calls for universities to innovate and undertake a skills review of current esports jobs and apply it to course content, thereby making it relevant to the esports market.Esports Insider: Who will the tutors be? Rachel: The university is considered to be one of the largest and best games universities in the UK, seeing a 130% growth in applications to its games courses. “It’ll be a mixture of proven business academics alongside individuals who have proven themselves in the wide world of esports”The courses are noted for the quality and in 2016 were considered the best place in the UK to study games design and development, ALPHR – the online branch of PC Pro. They offer a complete suite of nine awards covering games design, programming, animation, games development and visual effects. They work with industry partners to keep courses up to date and have a sponsorship arrangement with EPIC Games. We’re working hard on selecting the right candidates to be the tutors on the inaugural programme. It’ll be a mixture of proven business academics alongside individuals who have proven themselves in the wide world of esports. Combined, we feel these will offer students the best experience and make for a more enriching course. There will be a number of one off guest lectures too, in addition to on-site visits to companies in the space.We’ll be announcing the tutors in due course, but we shan’t be rushing this as we want to make absolutely sure we’ve got the right people on board.“We seek to raise the aspirations of young people by providing valid and demanded work skills in an up and coming industry”The esports business course will be led by two academic schools: The Business School and The School of Computing and Digital Technologies. Dr Bobbie Fletcher leads the games programmes and has built the department into the number one place to study games in the UK. She works with a team of dedicated games professionals to provide cutting edge modules. From the Business School we have Carol Southall who has worked all over the world as an event manager and will bring loads of great experiences to the course.We’ll be employing another lecturer prior to the course starting who is a specific esports expert and we’ll also be bringing in visiting fellows, professors and industry experts throughout to build a really up to date and lively experience.“Over 73% of those employed within esports are under the age of 35. A focus on employability will be intrinsic throughout the esports award”Recent feedback via NSS and SVS on the tourism and event management courses indicates a high level of student satisfaction with a range of key areas, including course organisation and management and teaching, with above sector benchmarks in a number of key metrics. NSS statistics for personal skills development indicates satisfaction levels above university average, which is likely to be a result of greater engagement with industry and volunteer opportunities. It is this expertise in the development of a high level of industry engagement that will enhance and support the proposed BA (Hons) Esports. Esports Insider: Can you tell us more about the ‘international residential’ element of the course?Rachel: It’s early days for this but all students on our events programmes have this opportunity and this year went to Iceland. The university has partners all over the world and we will be using these links to develop International varsities. We will identify the countries we want to visit each year according to where we think there is the most value to our students.Esports Insider: The third year will see students on the program putting together a ‘large scale, commercial venue event with teams and a prize pool’? Can you elaborate on this; how large scale will it be, will there be a number of them and which companies are you working with to achieve this end? Rachel: These partners are being developed over the next six months but already we have been approached by a wide variety of stakeholders from esports recruiters, games companies, online betting companies, tech suppliers and we are keeping this close to our chests at the moment while we are discussing sponsorship deals.“Summer placements and internships will be heavily promoted so that students are encouraged to maximise opportunities to gain work experience”The events will progress during the course from single player events in the first year to multi player in the second year and then in the third year we will be utilising our links with national arenas to really make it a special experience for all involved.Esports Insider: Is the main purpose of this course to develop the UK scene as a whole by creating a number of leaders in terms of putting on events and running teams?Rachel: We seek to raise the aspirations of young people by providing valid and demanded work skills in an up and coming industry. Over 73% of those employed within esports are under the age of 35. A focus on employability will be intrinsic throughout the esports award.The 60 credit module at level 4 covers careers talks, visits and guest speakers from industry along with the opportunity to take up a role within the team on live events at each level, therefore allowing for live experience of three roles over the duration of the course.At Level 5 students will develop their reflective practise when they are required to assess their employability skills reflecting on the business skills that they have developed. At Level 6 students will incorporate their skills assessment and research a topic of their own choice that reflects their interests and demonstrates their ability to apply skills they have developed throughout their course.Module assessments are built into Global Entrepreneurship Week, creating opportunities for students to present their work to invited business partners, guest lecturers and university staff. Furthermore, throughout the course assessments are linked as often as possible to real-life business challenges, developed through close interactions with a developing network of businesses that engage with the Business School.“Esports is driving the creation of new categories of jobs including esports commentators and analysts and is also creating synergies with existing jobs such as sports psychologists and broadcasters”Summer placements and internships will be heavily promoted so that students are encouraged to maximise opportunities to gain work experience to add to their CV, thereby improving employability prospects. Students will also be encouraged to apply for a full placement year between their second and third year of studies, to further experience working in a business environment. Their skills are in demand. Companies in the esports sector require people with entrepreneurialism and technological savvy. Esports is driving the creation of new categories of jobs including esports commentators and analysts and is also creating synergies with existing jobs such as sports psychologists and broadcasters. Just as importantly, the popularity of esports is driving the market for video games, including games developed in the UK, and the growth of jobs in the game development, retail and events sector.