There’s been a significant rise in university esports programs in recent years. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly common to find fully-funded esports programs offered alongside varsity schemes for conventional sports like basketball and football. 

Those institutions offering esports initiatives are not only making it easier for would-be professionals to break into top-tier tournaments, but they’re also improving accessibility to the industry as a whole. If a college is offering esports programs, it’s almost a guarantee that they’re also invested in video game development as a whole. Below, we identify five of the best esports university programs currently awaiting the next generation of professional gamers. 

5. University of California, Irvine 

The University of California’s Irvine campus was the first university in the world to offer a dedicated esports program. The unveiling of this program hardly came as a surprise. Before the college introduced the scheme in 2016, it was one of the few establishments offering computer game science as a major option for students. Today, UC Irvine actively promotes competitive gaming, while offering numerous scholarships for prospective students looking to break into the professional world of esports. 

4. Boise State University 

In 2017, Boise State University in Idaho unveiled its own esports program. The current line-up of active players is made up of undergraduate and graduate students alike. This institution promotes intercollegiate competition and is an active member of the National Association of Collegiate Esports. Every year, Boise State University hosts tryout sessions that gaming enthusiasts from the student body can attend. Those who can demonstrate sufficient skill are granted access to a first-rate training facility, as well as coaching services from esports professionals. 

3. University of Utah 

The University of Utah also unveiled an esports program in 2017. Although somewhat late to the party, the University of Utah was one of the first major institutions to commit to a varsity esports initiative. Like the University of California, this college has long promoted video game education, offering gaming development courses since 2007. It’s also managed to secure partnership deals with big brands like Mountain Dew, with sponsorship revenues ensuring the esports stars of tomorrow have everything they need to soar to the top. 

2. Maryville University 

Maryville University in St. Louis is a relatively small institution, with the private school home to little more than 9,000 students. Despite its modest size, Maryville University is home to one of the oldest varsity esports programs on the planet. Launched in 2015, Maryville University’s esports program has gone from strength to strength in recent years. Its esports program was recognized as the best of its kind in 2021. It’s also performed well in collegiate championships, with its League of Legends esports team taking home first prize in several national championships. The Maryville team has also secured impressive esports scores when competing in Overwatch tournaments. 

1. University of Akron 

Like Maryville University, the University of Akron is a fairly small educational institution. Regardless, Akron has quickly secured a name for itself as a leading provider of education in the video game development field, with a standout college esports program to boot. The University of Akron unveiled its esports program back in 2018 and quickly secured funding for a host of cutting-edge gaming facilities to foster new talent. In addition to several training centers, this college is also home to its very own esports arena that regularly hosts live events and intercollegiate tournaments.