More than a game: Education through Football Plus

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Football remains the most popular sport in the world. The women’s game is the fastest growing team sport in the world. While it may no longer be referred to as The People’s Game as often as it was in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, its popularity worldwide makes it a valuable educational tool around which other things can be built. Football plus refers to initiatives where other forces such as education use football as a means to an end rather than a football end in and of itself.

In 2014 the University of Edinburgh’s Academy of Sport launched Football More than a Game. Probably the world’s first football Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). More than 40,000 learners have taken the course. Both its reach and its development into other forms of educational provision mean it has developed the potential to engage communities, widen access locally and internationally, and create real opportunities for people from all walks of life.

Universities at times have the tendency to embrace definitions of culture that, at worst, exclude football and other forms of sport from the high altar of culture and, at best, behave as if a hierarchy of cultural forms exist. At the University of Edinburgh, such approaches to culture continue to be challenged. Football More than a Game is available in its original MOOC form, both non-credit and credit bearing forms, and blended learning and face to face forms.

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The course resources have been used by local authorities to access hard to reach populations. Football More than a Game has been studied in South African townships. In December 2015 the University helped to host the World Sports Values Summit in Cape Town, where kids from one of the local township football teams excitedly reported that they had taken the football MOOC as part of an offering provided through their local community education programme.

Closer to Edinburgh, the University of Edinburgh provides widening access opportunities for education through football. A partnership with one of the local city Scottish premier league teams has given rise to a pilot education programme.  A credit bearing version of Football More than a Game will be run through the football club’s learning outreach centre located in the football stadium. If you put this together with the successful Edu Pass programme that targets 13-16 year olds in Scottish areas of multiple-deprivation, it can be proven that football is a key element in The University of Edinburgh’s capacity not only to engage with communities but also develop human capabilities.

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From non-credit bearing MOOCs to credit bearing blended learning courses, from the local to the international, Edinburgh’s capacity to open up opportunities and provide education through football is alternative, progressive, and popular. It has the potential to link into the new Global Impact of Sport Summer School scheduled to run in July 2017. Limited only by resource and capacity, Football More than a Game will continue to work in partnership with clubs and communities to deliver education through football where it can.

Next steps:

Read more about Football More Than a Game

Register for the Global Impact of Sport Summer School (PDF flyer)

Find out more about MOOCs at the University of Edinburgh

Grant Jarvie

Professor Grant Jarvie is Chair of Sport and Founding Director of Edinburgh’s Academy of Sport. He is a former Chair and Director with the National Sports Council and is currently a Board member with the Scottish Football Association advising on matters of equality, diversity and community engagement.

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