Expanding Esports in Higher Ed: Benefits and Guidance for New Esports Programs


All sizes and types of institutions can build or expand an esports program. Even though the exact pathways may differ based on the particular needs and interests of each institution, the opportunities to support new groups of students make it worthwhile for administrators to discuss how they might create or grow esports teams and gaming communities. A program can start by focusing on just one or two games, and, through streaming and hosting community events and tournaments, the interest of the student community can be gauged. A communal gaming room or arena can provide an easy way to bring students into a program and community. And even if a program starts small, any student can benefit from being involved. From athletes to the many types of supporting staff, students can learn valuable workforce and life skills as they engage with coaches, mentors, and peers in the esports community.

Institutions of all sizes can also bring their teams to compete against any other institution at the national level—and in esports, teams from smaller institutions can and often do succeed against teams from larger institutions. Even though the NCAA isn't involved in esports, other organizations have stepped up to provide an opportunity for students to compete and showcase their skills in local and national tournaments. NACE, NASEF, Tespa, and the CSL are all continuing to grow as the number of institutions involved in esports increases. For institutions, joining and having teams competing in these organizations can excite student supporters and help grow awareness of an esports team, both internally and for potential recruitment.

This is an exciting time for esports globally and in higher education. The interest and engagement of younger age groups in esports is growing, and higher education institutions have the opportunity not only to create esports teams capable of garnering national recognition in a growing field but also to help engage more students in new ways. More and more institutions are creating esports teams and programs, and the sooner an institution begins to develop a gaming community, the greater its chances of bringing in some of the most talented players and larger numbers of interested students needed for creating a successful esports program.