Top 6 Esports Universities
June 15, 2021, by Rakesh Naik
With roots in the early 1970s, and popularised to a wider public by 2010s, eSports has kept growing through to the current time. It is expected to flourish and become even more popular with it being as common as other forms of popular sports.
This popularity also led to many universities starting their own courses to teach and help aspiring eSports professionals to compete in the top eSports competitions. This not only makes eSports a mainstream activity but also promotes the viability of being an eSports professional as a career. While many of these programs are in their early stages of establishment, there are several who have already made a name for themselves in eSports education.
Below listed are the top 6 universities around the globe with the best eSports programs aiming to assist every student to go from an amateur to become an eSports professional.
1. University of California Irvine (California)
UCI in California was founded in 1965, and is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. UCI ranks in the top 10 public universities in the United States of America and has even produced multiple Nobel laureates in the past.
UCI was the first public university to ever create an official eSports program with varsity teams in League of Legends, Overwatch, and Super Smash Bros as early as 2015. Its teams are highly decorated, being the 2018 College League of Legends champions and competing in the first Fiesta Bowl Overwatch National Championships. They even offer awards to players with a $5,600 scholarship to League of Legends players and $2,500 to Overwatch players.
According to campus statistics, around 72% of UC Irvine students play video games. UC Irvine has one of the US’s most extensive eSports facilities, which houses over 70 gaming computers and a large arena for games and competitions. Each computer and monitor set comes with a high-quality keyboard, mouse and headset. There is also a Console and Community Corner for players to play other console games.
2. Miami University (Ohio)
Miami University, Ohio, was established in 1809, ranks in the top 50 public universities in the United States of America. It is also a school in Division I athletics. They are accredited as the first top-tier university in the US to launch an eSports program. The program was started in 2015, and the university began offering scholarships for the same as soon as 2016.
The Miami University has varsity teams in a variety of games, namely – CS:GO, Hearthstone, League of Legends, Overwatch, Rainbow Six Siege and Rocket League, and also junior varsity teams for games such as Call of Duty and Valorant. To further support the eSports program, the university invested in an eSports arena located on the first floor of the school’s King Library. Students in the program also have the opportunity to work as counsellors during an annual summer eSports camp.
All of the teams in the university have won their fair share of competitions and titles, with the most recent one being the Overwatch ESports Collegiate Championship in 2021.
The school also offers courses in gaming, design and emerging technology, giving students a chance to pursue a profession in the industry outside of the competitive arena, and students on a varsity team at Miami have scholarship options available.
3. Maryville University of Saint Louis (Missouri)
Maryville University of St Louis was founded by the Society of the Sacred Heart in 1872, and is one of the oldest private institutions in Missouri. Maryville started their eSports program in 2015 and made a name for themselves after their League of Legends team won the national championship in 2016 with a 40-0 record. They also went on to win the same championship for 2 more consecutive years.
The Maryville eSports program focuses solely on the League of Legends team plus a nationally ranked, top 4 Overwatch team. The coaches of these teams are former Maryville players and other eSports professionals. They offer multiple eSports scholarships to as well, some amounting to over $2,000 per player.
The MU eSports program has two divisions: Varsity and Community Club. The varsity program builds top collegiate talent from around the world, including three-time National Champion League of Legends team and a top four nationally-ranked Overwatch team. Players must try out to earn a spot in the varsity team. The Community Club is for students who want a competitive yet friendly gaming environment, with teams in CS:GO, Hearthstone, Rainbow Six Siege and Rocket League. While students must try out to be on a specific team, the Community Club hosts events throughout the year for any student to partake in.
This university also maintains a state-of-the-art practice facility with the best internet possible for low ping and high FPS. Along with high-speed computers, the facility also comes with top-of-the-line headsets and gaming chairs for maximum comfort and complete concentration.
4. Robert Morris Experiential College (Chicago)
Robert Morris University or RMU, was a private university founded in 1965 which merged into Roosevelt University in 2020. The Robert Morris Experiential College was formed as part of the merge. RMU had its eSports program and scholarships as early as 2014 along with its own League of Legends student team.
The school was one of the first in the country to launch a varsity eSports program, and offers its players up to 50 percent of tuition and 50 percent room and board each year in scholarship opportunities.
The college’s varsity eSports teams currently compete in Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and League of Legends. They have dedicated coaches for these teams and have several sponsorships that provide the players with some of the best facilities in the nation. Some sponsors include iBuyPower, ASUS, Cooler Master, and DXRacer, which produce high quality gaming PCs, keyboards, mice, and gaming chairs.
The coaches also train players who seek to develop gaming skills while cultivating meaningful personal and academic relationships. The university also has an advanced eSports facility allowing players access to over 20 high end gaming computers with a low ping high FPS internet connection.
5. University of Utah (Utah)
A public university founded in 1850, the University of Utah is the flagship institution of the Utah System of Higher Education. It is a division I university and was late to the eSports scene with an eSports program started only in 2017. However, they have already become one of the largest universities to offer varsity eSports with scholarships averaging over $1,000 per year.
The U currently supports varsity teams in League of Legends, Hearthstone, Overwatch, and Rocket League and brands itself as ‘Gamer U’. They offer partial scholarships to varsity players. Students who want to be varsity gamers at the U “must be enrolled as full-time students…maintain a nominal GPA…progress 20% of degree with each season…” and they’re only “eligible for 4 seasons of play within 5 years from first full-time enrolment.”
In addition to a highly competitive eSports program, The U maintains a rich history of embracing gaming. The university has offered a video game development degree since 2007. They also have a gaming facility housing at least 20 top-notch gaming computers with all the high-end accessories. Every year, roughly 200 students try-out for the varsity team, but only 30 or so make the team.
Through sponsorships with Mountain Dew and Rockstar Energy Drink, Utah’s eSports program provides athletes with cutting-edge equipment and scholarships.
6. Georgia State University (Georgia)
Georgia State University is a public research university in Atlanta, Georgia which was founded in 1913 and is one of the University System of Georgia’s 4 research universities. Even though GSU is relatively a newcomer to the eSports scene, it has earned a place among the top eSports programs in the whole United States. Stepping into the competitive scene only by 2017, GSU has eSports teams in League of Legends, Smite, and Brawlhalla. The university also holds memberships in the Georgia eSports League as well as the National Association of Collegiate eSports.
The university uses Twitch to live stream their tournament and competition participation. Students who do not participate as competitive eSports players, work in the broadcasting, production and the marketing of these eSports tournaments. GSU also as facilities to deal with coaching, student management and game development.
The university also offers eSports scholarships to students that can supplement to one of their already existing scholarship. To maintain their scholarships, students must maintain a high academic standard and also strictly follow the university’s code of conduct.