University students can now study emojis as part of courses in language, marketing, psychology and even politics.
King's College London, Edinburgh and Cardiff are among the leading institutions to have included the cartoons in their courses.
They are also having wider use in politics and will form a key part of the parties' social media strategies ahead of the general election next month.
The popularity of emojis, which are used across the globe, poses questions about the future of communication, experts say.
Dr Philip Seargeant, 49, who wrote The Emoji Revolution, teaches pupils about the symbols in the 'introduction to language' module at the Open University.
He said: 'Emojis are incredibly popular, but the study of them can be seen as a bit frivolous and childish.
'There's a moral panic around emojis, that they are ruining the way children are learning and ruining the language.
'This is a perennial worry about new forms of language - there was the same concern about texting 10 years ago.
'Increasingly now there is actual research going on at universities into emojis. It's developing into a serious area of study in lots of different areas.
'There's more to them than first meets the eye.'
Dr Seargeant said psychologists now study emojis, communications academics look at the symbols, and marketing students.
They can teach us about the future of language and also affect identity and politics.
And the symbols are now being used for more serious forms of communication.
Dr Seargeant said: 'When you have public mourning over tragedies, a lot of people will use emojis to express their feelings.
'Politicians are using them for specific things. When Robert Mugabe died, his son just posted an emoji.
'They are a way of expressing emotions in online written language. This is so important in modern politics.'
Dr Seargeant said political parties are likely to use more emojis than ever before in the December election.
The Conservatives have been using the tick symbol to highlight their proposed policies.
Boris Johnson posted about Brexit, more police officers and more money for the NHS each with an emoji in front of the topic.
Labour have been using emojis to encourage people to register to vote, and repost the party's campaign images.
Dr Seargeant said: 'Emojis are now not just part of written campaign literature, but also used with visual messages.
'A lot of candidates are doing videos from the campaign trail, and emojis are being used to add messages to that.
'Along with memes and Instagram stories, we are definitely seeing a move in this election to a more visual shorthand way of communicating.
'People are now far more literate with them.'
Emojis have existed for 20 years but for more than a decade they were only used in Japan.
There are currently 3,178 official emojis, but in 2010, there were just 625.
They are strictly regulated by the big tech companies and released in annual batches.
The latest release, last month, included non-binary versions of most human emojis.
'Emojis, unlike any other form of language, is controlled by a little group of corporations. This is very different from other language.'
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.