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Higher Education

Contemporary higher education in Iceland dates back to 1847 with the formation of the Theological Seminary. In 1876 the Seminary was followed by the Medical School and then in 1908 the School of Law. These three institutions merged in 1911 with the foundation of the University of Iceland in Reykjavik. The contemporary higher education system encompasses three universities with research responsibilities and more than one program of study in addition to 11 specialized technical, vocational, and art colleges. With the exception of the University of Iceland, fewer than 1,000 students are enrolled at all other higher education institutions. The University of Iceland with an enrollment of 5,900 students (59 percent female), remains the principal institution and it hosts nine faculties (economics and business administration, dentistry, engineering, humanities, law, medicine, natural sciences, social sciences, and theology). Many of the faculties are subdivided into departments. For example, the Faculty of Social Sciences offers majors in ethnology, library and information science, political science, psychology, social anthropology, and sociology. The University of Iceland is a rapidly expanding and diversified institution with a total of more than 50 degree programs. The National and University Library, with 15 branches on and off campus, contains approximately 700,000 volumes with regular subscriptions maintained for 2,600 foreign journals.

The University of Iceland does not have restrictions on admission for those who have passed the matriculation exam. However, in the Faculty of Medicine, the Departments of Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing, and Dentistry operate under a system wherein the number of students permitted to continue their studies beyond the first semester is limited and based on their performance on an examination. Further, the Department of Pharmacy and the Faculty of Science require students to have matriculated from upper-secondary programs emphasizing math, physics, or natural science.

The University of Akureyri has four departments: Health Science, Management Study, Fishery Studies, and Education. The University College of Education is primarily responsible for the education of teachers at the compulsory school level. This institution also offers a Master of Education Degree with specialization in curriculum studies, special education, educational administration, and educational theory.

Colleges in Iceland offer technical and vocational courses in addition to training in the arts. Most colleges specialize in a single field of study with some colleges belonging formally to the upper-secondary school level while actually operating higher education programs. Courses of study are offered in several areas: physical education, social pedagogy, preschool education, drama, music, fine and applied arts and design, computer studies, management, civil and electrical engineering technology, laboratory and radiology technology, and agricultural science.

Icelandic is the primary language of instruction in higher education, although textbooks are frequently in English, a widely understood language in the country. Operating under a semester system, the academic year begins in September and lasts until May. There are no tuition fees at state-run Icelandic institutions, students only pay registration fees. The few private institutions do charge tuition. Icelandic students attending institutions of higher learning are eligible for state loans. The total loan amount is based on the student's income, with repayment deferred until two years after completion of one's studies. Grants are offered for post-graduate research-oriented studies at universities in Iceland and are based on proposals submitted jointly by a student and a professor.

Higher education assessment in Iceland is typically in the form of oral or written examinations in addition to other course-related assignments. Moreover, university degrees are only conferred with successful completion of a final thesis or research project.

A diploma or certificate is awarded for 2 to 3 years of postsecondary study in drama, fine and applied arts and design, music, computer studies, management, and civil and electrical engineering. A BA degree is granted to students who have completed 3 to 4 years of study in humanities, theology, and social sciences and have finished a final thesis or research project. The BS degree is awarded to students who have completed 3 to 4 years of study in economics, business administration, natural sciences, health subjects, fishery studies, agricultural sciences, and engineering. A BE degree is earned after 3 years of course work designed to prepare students to teach at the preschool, compulsory, or upper-secondary level or for 3 years of study in the area of social pedagogy. A BphilIsl degree (Baccalaureatus Philologiae Islandicae) is granted upon completion of the program in Icelandic for foreign students. A Candidatus degree is offered only at the University of Iceland and qualifies the recipient for a particular profession or office. This type of degree is essentially an academic/professional degree offered in the fields of theology, medicine, pharmacy, law, business administration, engineering, and dentistry.

The University of Iceland offers a number of postgraduate degree programs. One year post-bachelor degree programs lead to certificates in education, social work, journalism, and mass communication. The MS degree is awarded following successful completion of two years of post-graduate study and a thesis research project in the faculties of medicine, economics and business administration, engineering, and natural sciences. Similarly, the MA degree is awarded after two years of postgraduate study in the Humanities and the Social Sciences in conjunction with a thesis research project. The MEd degree is awarded at the University College of Education following two-years of post-graduate study and completion of a thesis research project. Doctoral level training is only offered at the University of Iceland. There are two types of doctoral programs: a doctor of philosophy degree in Icelandic literature, language, and history and one that is not based on a predefined course of studies, but instead involves independent research by a candidate. As a rule, admission to doctoral programs requires completion of a professional degree (candidatus) or a master's degree.

Although there is no general legislation governing higher education, each institution is directly responsible to the Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture. The law pertaining to the operation of each institution defines its mission as related to education and research, the internal structure, and administrative roles. Within the framework outlined by the state, each university or college designs and updates the aims, scope, and length of programs offered as well as the content of courses.

Students in Iceland have a long history of traveling abroad to study, with 20 percent of higher education students (mostly post-graduate) studying overseas at any given time. The number of foreign exchange students enrolled in Icelandic universities and colleges has increased throughout the last several years. In response to their presence, the number of short intensive Icelandic courses has expanded along with services designed to enrich the daily lives of foreign students. For example, excursions and lectures pertaining to the country and Icelandic society are regularly available.

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Education - Free Encyclopedia Search EngineGlobal Education ReferenceIceland - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education