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Training Spotlight: University of Abertay

Abertay University is well renowned in the industry for offering the world’s first higher education game development degree back in 1997.

Since then many other educational institutions have followed suit, but the university has the highest number of Skillset accreditations for computer games courses in the UK, as well as holding Skillset Media Academy status.

It now offers courses covering computer art, game audio, design and production management and programming and technology, as well as also offering postgraduate courses such as its professional masters program in games development, launched as recently as 2009.

Academic director for Abertay’s institute for Arts, Media and Computer Games Louis Natanson says there are many benefits open to students who study at the campus, beyond the university’s reputation as a leading industry education hub.

“We’ve always worked very closely with the industry, to ensure our courses are developing the skills graduates need to get great jobs and be productive in a company from day one,” he says.

He adds that staff on the courses have worked for companies including Codemasters, DMA Design, Denki and EA, whilst the University brings in companies to meet students, mentor them and also provide advice and set real commercial briefs for student projects to help bring them a step closer to the real thing.

He also says that Abertay has “particularly close working relationships” with other companies such as Disney, Microsoft, Sony and Ubisoft, and has an industry advisory panel that helps keep Abertay up to date with the latest trends in the industry and what studios are in most need of, as well as helping guide the curriculum it delivers.

Natanson believes what sets the Scottish university apart is that it allows students to make games as part of a team, providing them with the skills needed to work on big projects with many other developers.

“Art, audio, game design and programming students work together on real projects, building real games,” he says.

“That’s how the industry works, so that’s how we teach.”

One student to have studied at the university is Dave Jones, creator of Grand Theft Auto, and Natanson claims that as well as this success story, most major games companies such as Rockstar, Sony and Codemasters and some new start-ups have a graduate from one of its courses employed.

As well as running its popular courses, Abertay also runs a multi-million pound ‘Prototype Fund’, which invests money into start-ups and small companies, sometimes set up by former students of the University, to help them expand their business and create new content.

In future, Natanson says Abertay will continue to listen to the industry and its students so that it can “keep delivering some of the world’s greatest computer games education”.

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