Five best UK university courses for game design

Studying game design at university is a very, very good thing to do. Of course, you could decide not to go and spend the time trying to make something off your own back, putting in years of trial-and-error effort; this can work. But if you want a formal foundation in the intricacies of game design, there are choices to be made: where to go, what course to study, which subjects to focus on.

Don’t worry, we feel your pain: it’s a hard process to work through. To help ease the frustration of Ucas forms and, well, making a decision, we’ve studied the games design landscape and highlighted five of the best courses. Take it away, list!

The best game design and development courses in the UK

1. Computer games design and programming, Staffordshire University

best_uk_university_game_design_-_staffordshire_stoke_campus

Annual fees

Course length

UK/EU students

£9,000

Three years

Non-UK/EU students

£10,500

Three years

Based in Stoke-on-Trent, this course is run with the help of TIGA, one of the UK’s main gaming authorities. It also covers more than one discipline in the field (something you’ll see other universities in this list doing) – design and programming – so you should finish the course as a bit of a jack of all trades. This is handy for established studios looking to hire multi-skilled employees and for graduates who want to build their own studios from scratch.

In addition, students have access to Rare’s motion capture studio, and Staffordshire’s game design studio is sponsored by Epic Games, which needs no introduction. The uni also holds regular events visited by games industry professionals; these are perfect for picking up pointers (and potentially being discovered while you’re still studying).

Interestingly, Staffordshire has recently introduced a VR-focused design course – something to bear in mind, what with virtual reality set to be the next big thing in gaming.

2. Games design and development, Manchester Metropolitan University

best_uk_university_game_design_-_manchester_met_uni_game_design_night

Annual fees

Course length

UK/EU students

£9,000

Three years (four with sandwich)

Non-UK/EU students

£12,650

Three years (four with sandwich)

Based in the heart of Manchester, this course offers typical design-based studies alongside a broader focus on elements including mobile and social gaming. Want to make the next Candy Crush? Well, get in line, but this is the type of course for you.

Manchester Met also offers a sandwich option, allowing a third year’s study to be deferred while you take on a placement before finishing the course. Experience is invaluable, after all, and a thousand years of study is nothing compared to 12 months in a working studio (don’t quote me on that).

What makes this course appropriate for this list, however, is its location: Manchester is a growing hub of creative industries, as well as a fine city in its own right. Alongside a solid grounding in games design, you enjoy all the benefits of being an adopted Manc, which is more than just an odd swagger and a proclivity for the Smiths.

3. Games design, Brunel University

best_uk_university_game_design_-_brunel_university_campus_game_design

Annual fees

Course length

UK/EU students

£9,000

Three years

Non-UK/EU students

£15,400

Three years

Taught by working professionals, Brunel’s course links the theory and practise of game design. The scope is broad, covering the theory of design, plus more practical modules and even the art and business sides of things. It’s a catch-all programme intended to give students a good grounding in the fundamentals of every element of game design.

The course isn’t aimed at programming/computer science experts, requiring no previous experience in these disciplines. For this reason, you may want to avoid it if you’ve already got a grounding in development – but it’s ideal for those who want somewhere to start.

Brunel’s course, like many others, requires a finished prototype to be presented, meaning students must actually make something with the skills they acquire.

4. Games design and art, University of Southampton

best_uk_university_game_design_-_southampton_games_deisgn_and_art

Annual fees

Course length

UK/EU students

£9,000

Three years

Non-UK/EU students

£15,390

Three years

Southampton’s course – based at the Winchester School of Art – covers the same general themes of the other courses here. However, there’s one big difference that separates it from the other courses in this list – the “art” element of the degree title. This means Southampton offers a crossover with the graphic arts, fine art and fashion and textile design courses at the art school. This unique selling point may appeal to those of a more artistic bent. In any case, interdisciplinary courses – while less focused – offer a great chance to learn additional skills that may make you stand out to future employers.

Plus, you’re close to a really nice beach – if you’re willing to take the half-hour train to Bournemouth, that is.

5. Computing (games, vision and interaction), Imperial College London

best_uk_university_game_design_-_imperial_college_london_computing

Annual fees

Course length

UK/EU students

£9,000

Four years

Non-UK/EU students

£26,750

Four years

For those of you looking for a course not specifically focused on games design, this is the one. This doesn’t mean Imperial’s course is a damp squib, though. In fact, by taking it, you’ll receive a world-renowned university education stuffed with some hardcore academic study into the most important technical factors of computing, IT and all that lovely, difficult stuff.

As a four-year course, it’s longer than the others on this list (although sandwich and part-time options are available in some cases) – the extra year is used to cram in learning in the fields of logic, mathematics, compilers, networks, visualisation and many other elements. Students study a lot of things, basically.

The course may not offer access to motion capture labs or require you to create a game for your final project, but its classes are hugely respected and will teach you far more than you need to start a career in the world of gaming. There are downsides, though, particularly how tough it is to get in, and the cost of living in London.

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Needless to say, there are plenty of other courses around the UK – and more are being added every day, it seems. So, use this guide as your starting point to go forth and develop the best-selling games of tomorrow.

READ NEXT: How to learn to code in the UK for free

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