An Analysis of
Global Academic Esports Degree Programs

Research Track

10/09/20, 11:00AM - 11:30AM PT

About the Presentation

On May 23, 2020, the Staffordshire University London Digital Institute (@staffsunildn) sent out a Tweet touting an upcoming presentation regarding their esports academic degree program that stated, “Soon, working in Esports will require a university degree.” This tweet was then quickly deleted after a re-tweet with comment by @DeKay (2020) was “liked” more than 1.2k times that said, “The fuck it will. I will battle until death against people who claim this BS. GTFO. Deleted now of course so they can run back and frame it a different way before posting again.” Moreover, in response, Adam Fitch (2020), an editor with both the Esports Insider (https://esportsinsider.com) and The Esports Journal (http://theesportsjournal.news), interviewed a Staffordshire University student enrolled in the esport academic program to address this recent discussion and learn more about what an esports degree entails. Therefore, it appears that some individuals within the esports industry may lack an understanding of the value and corresponding curricular contents of an academic esports degree.

Moreover, in April 2020, the British Esports Association (BEA, 2020) announced a partnership with education company Pearson to offer the world’s first Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) secondary school leaving qualification in esports. Similarly, the number of higher education academic esports programs worldwide is beginning to slowly increase. In 2018, Becker College in the United States, Staffordshire University in the United Kingdom, and Kajaani University of Applied Sciences in Finland each became the first higher education institution in their respective countries to offer esports degrees (BEA, 2019). Today, while this list is not exhaustive, one or more higher education institutions within the following countries now offer undergraduate or graduate esports academic degree programs: Canada, China, England, Finland, France, India, Russia, South Korea, and the United States (Chan, 2019).

Current programs that integrate esports curriculum often cite the esports industry’s massive amounts of revenue and continued growth, facilitating new employment opportunities, while assisting in teaching similar concepts to traditional academic programs, but with unique characteristics, most often relating to sport business/management, media/communication, sport science, or game design (Chan, 2019). For instance, traditional sport management concepts can be applied through the lens of esports relating to such areas as marketing, sponsorship, branding, media deals, event/venue management, governance, consumer behavior, etc. Furthermore, pedagogy utilized may move beyond traditional lecture and provide experiential learning modalities (i.e., internships, field experiences).

The purpose of this paper is to provide: 1) an extensive overview of the current existing higher education esports academic degree programs offered globally; 2) a comparative content analysis of these programs, including type of degree, program objectives, esports course curriculum, and mode of delivery; and 3) a discussion of the potential value of an esports academic degree with future directions of esports academic curriculum in mind. This content analysis is framed through the theoretical lens of Diffusion Theory (Rogers, 2003), highlighting the academic institutions and specific career fields which appear to be early adopters, early majority, late majority, or laggards within this space.

Seth E. Jenny, PhD

Department of Exercise & Rehabilitative Sciences,
Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

Seth E. Jenny, Ph.D., ACSM-EP, CHES, is an assistant professor within the Department of Exercise and Rehabilitative Sciences at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Jenny is a performance advisor to KovaaK 2.0: The Meta FPS aim trainer, founding member of the Esports Research Network, and is an editorial board member of International Journal of Esports. He recently authored a textbook titled “Technology for Physical Educators, Health Educators, and Coaches.” Dr. Jenny has provided more than 100 professional presentations and has published nearly 50 peer-reviewed academic journal articles within his prime areas of research - esports, motion-based video gaming, instructional technology, and distance running.

Joey Gawrysiak, PhD

Director of Esports, Shenandoah University

Dr. Joey Gawrysiak is the Director of Esports and Associate Professor of Esports at Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA. He received his Ph.D. in Sport Management and Policy from the University of Georgia in 2012. Dr. G started the esports competitive teams in 2018, which now consists of 5 varsity game titles and over 50 students competing in the Esports Arena at Shenandoah University. He wrote one of the first esports curricula in the world with academic programs and certifications across the field of esports at the undergraduate and graduate levels of study. Gawrysiak has written several articles and book chapters on esports as well as providing professional development for students working in event management, broadcast production, and social media marketing. He is an international consultant, researcher and lecturer on esports.  Gawrysiak has lead numerous international trips for students, including the International Esports Federation Championships in Seoul, South Korea.

Nicolas Besombes

Associate Professor, University of Paris

Associate Professor in Sociology of sports at the University of Paris and Vice President of the national esports French association "France Esports".