New esports qualification opens the door to a billion-pound industry for Scottish students

A new qualification in esports is providing Scottish school pupils and college learners with a stepping stone into the billion-pound esports industry.

Developed by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), the new National Progression Award (NPA) in Esports provides an overview of the esports industry, where teams compete against each other in organised competitive gaming events.

Over the duration of the one-year course, learners will focus on core topics including game performance and event management and develop knowledge and understanding of esports and prepare for further studies in the gaming sector.

The development of the qualification comes after interest was expressed by colleges for an award in the topic. After further research with SQA centres, it emerged that 88% of centres surveyed, agreed that esports is an emerging and growing industry with considerable interest from learners.

The NPA in Esports was developed with sector representation, with an ever-growing industry in mind, looking to provide a pathway into employment and further study and mitigate the risk of a skills-gap in Scotland in the esports sector.

After a successful pilot at Dunoon Grammar School in Argyll and Bute in 2022-’23, the NPAs are now available to all schools, colleges, and training providers across Scotland, at SCQF levels 4, 5 and 6. It is a starting point for learners who want a career in the esports industry, which is growing rapidly with increasing employment opportunities.

Courses like this are very important to the school curriculum to ensure pathways into further learning, training, and potentially employment are available for all young people. Traditional subjects like maths and science are still really important, but we’ve been really pleased with how many pupils here have engaged positively with this new course.

Paul Gallanagh, Principal Teacher of Business and Computing, delivers the esports qualification at Dunoon Grammar School.

NPA courses are designed to assess a defined set of skills and knowledge that learners have developed in a specialist area. The NPA in Esports is a mixture of theory and practical work and includes a variety of transferrable skills outside of the esports industry too, such as video editing, social media marketing, and teamwork.

Paul Gallanagh continues: “In terms of progression, we’re seeing more higher education establishments offer esports degree courses, and there are lots of employment opportunities. The beauty for a rural school like us, is that most people can continue to live in our town while working in this industry.”

After completing the NPA, learners can choose to stay on the same pathway and complete a Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Diploma (HND) in a similar area, such as Computer Games Development. These qualifications then allow learners to progress onto degrees in the gaming sector offered by Scottish universities.

Bobby Elliot, Qualifications Manager for Technology, Engineering and Construction at SQA.

There are currently eight universities in Scotland offering degrees in the gaming sector. Abertay University offers courses including Computer Game Applications Development BSc (Hons), and Game Design and Production BA (Hons). Edinburgh Napier University offers courses including Animation for Games BSc (Hons), and Games Development BSc (Hons), with Glasgow Caledonian University, the University of the Highlands and Islands, and the University of the West of Scotland, also all offering degrees in the sector.

Bobby Elliot continues, “This qualification is the first of its kind offered by SQA. It’s designed to engage and motivate learners and deliver a wide range of current digital knowledge and skills. We offer a variety of computing and gaming qualifications, which are designed and developed with subject experts and industry to ensure they meet the skills needs of the sector. Going forward, we're keen to look at plans to offer learners further articulation routes into further study.”

The qualification has been well received by the gaming sector, receiving praise from The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE), the trade body for the UK games and interactive entertainment industry. Head of Education at UKIE, Shahneila Saeed, comments: “From a business perspective, the NPA is raising the bar on entry level roles, as well as ensuring a stronger and more diverse talent pipeline which will only help the industry flourish.”

James, an S6 pupil currently taking the NPA at Dunoon Grammar School, said: “The esports qualification is great as it’s opened up esports as a career you can pursue through school which wasn’t possible for me before. It’s great fun and a new course to go along with a fairly new industry.”

Gabriella, an S4 pupil, added: “I’m really enjoying the gaming side but the theory side too, like learning how esports has grown and what happens behind the scenes.”