Universities Minister tours computer games facilities on virtual visit

Minister of State for Universities, Michelle Donelan MP, joined Stoke-on-Trent North MP Jonathan Gullis for a tour of computer games facilities.

The virtual visit took place in support of Stoke-on-Trent’s ambition to become a UK hub for the industry.

They were greeted by Vice-Chancellor Professor Liz Barnes CBE DL who spoke about Staffordshire University’s plan to become the foremost digital university in the UK and the institution’s backing for Silicon Stoke, which aims to stimulate growth and investment by tech companies and create high quality jobs in Stoke-on-Trent.

As part of the visit, Associate Professor Bobbie Fletcher led a virtual tour of specialist facilities including the Epic Games Centre, Virtual Reality Centre, Motion Capture Studio and Esports Hub where the Minister and Mr Gullis heard from academics and students about exciting innovations in games education and the wider industry.

Ms Donelan also gave an interview with student radio station OMG and met with officers of the Students’ Union and students to hear about their experiences through the pandemic.

The Universities Minister said: “Protecting the health, wellbeing and education of students has been my priority from the start of the pandemic, and it was important for me to hear directly from Staffordshire’s students on their experiences throughout this time.

“I am delighted to see the state-of-the art video gaming facilities on offer at the University, and I thank staff for their tireless efforts to prepare them, and the rest of the campus, in time for the return of practical students this week.”

Jonathan Gullis MP added: “The University has been ahead of the game since the 1960s, when it became the first UK university to offer a computing degree. Over the last decade the University has invested £100m in state-of-the-art facilities to ensure it stays at the front of the pack – some of which I was delighted to tour with the Minister today.

“Here in Stoke-on-Trent we have the potential to become the hub of the UK’s video games industry and a key part of this is having the UK’s leading games university here in the city. Staffordshire University is the biggest video games university in the UK, with 17 different degree courses with a total of 2,000 students enrolled. Each year the University plays host to the UK’s largest Global Games Jam, which is a great stage for Stoke-on-Trent and highlights our digital potential.

“The University continues to invest and innovate, such as its recent launch of a new London campus, and I am excited to see what they do next.”

Professor Barnes said: “It was a delight to showcase Staffordshire University and give an insight into our first-class facilities, an overview of our future-facing courses and, of course, offer the Minister and Jonathan the opportunity to speak to some of our staff and students.

“As a Civic University committed to the economic prosperity of the region, we recognise the critical role we can play in Stoke-on-Trent’s bid to become a UK gaming hub.

“We only wish the visit could have happened in person, but we have extended an invitation for the Minister and Mr Gullis to visit our Staffordshire University London campus which presents both the University and the city with exciting possibilities for collaboration.”

Staffordshire University Students’ Union President Connor Bayliss said: “We’re really pleased the Universities Minister made time to hear from students about how difficult it has been for them working and studying through the pandemic. We hope she enjoyed her visit and hope that she took away with her the strong sense of community and pride that we have here at Staffs.”

“Here in Stoke-on-Trent we have the potential to become the hub of the UK’s video games industry and a key part of this is having the UK’s leading games university here in the city.

Jonathan Gullis MP

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