Universities in Iceland

Universities in Iceland by City:


About universities in Iceland

As national university systems go, Iceland’s is quite young: its oldest school, the University of Iceland (Háskóli Íslands) in Reykjavík, was founded in 1911. Háskóli Íslands was originally a school for those interested in government and civil service, but today it has over 160 fields of study, including graduate and professional degrees. In addition to the University of Iceland, there are six other colleges and universities in the country, of which three are public, meaning students who go there pay no fees. Icelandic society has always placed a high priority on education, and the nation has had a long history of free, high-quality education for all citizens. It is considered imperative that all students, including those who are disabled or mentally handicapped, have an equal opportunity at getting a good education.

Some of Iceland’s colleges and universities specialize in a particular area of study, such as the arts or agriculture. Agricultural education has a particularly strong place in the system, since so much of Iceland’s economy has historically been dependent on livestock and fishing. Icelandic universities have a number of particular specialties based on the unique geology, history, economy, and culture of the country. Icelandic universities, for example, have some of the best programs in the world in geothermal energy, since this is a prime source of energy on the island. Agricultural studies are also common, as are geology, tourism studies, and certain kinds of engineering.

Despite the fact that almost 1/3 of Icelanders live in the capital, Reykjavik, there are several colleges and universities outside the capital. Akureyri, a quiet town in the north of the island, has a highly-regarded university, as does the town of Borgarbyggð, in the mostly rural west. Reykjavik does, however, house three of Iceland’s seven universities, all of them quite distinct from one another.

Iceland has a rich intellectual history, in which the universities have played a significant role. For centuries, this chilly island has produced some of Europe’s most acclaimed writers, from the mythic poetry of Snorri Sturlusson to the contemporary novels of Halldor Laxness. The preservation and study of Icelandic literature, as well as the perpetuation of the language itself, is seen as one of the primary functions of Icelandic universities.

There is a university entrance exam in Iceland called the Stúdentspróf, but it is not seen in quite the same dramatic light as entrance exams in other countries. Because competition for spots in Icelandic universities is fairly light (there are more than enough spots to go around among the small population, and the easygoing Icelanders feel little need to fight over them), the universities have the luxury of making admissions decisions based on a more comprehensive view of the applicant. Thus, the Stúdentspróf is an important but not life-altering test.

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