There are seven universities in Iceland. Most of the higher education institutions are run by the state or private parties with state support. Currently there are approximately 18000 students enrolled in the higher education system, of which about 5% are international students. The Icelandic academic year traditonally runs from September to May and is divided into two semesters; autumn and spring. Generally, the autumn semester is from the beginning of September until late December, and the spring semester from the start of January until the end of May, although some disciplines may vary.
The country has rather a dramatic nickname, ‘the land of fire and ice’, which refers to its impressive variety of natural features. Iceland is one of the world’s most active volcanic regions, while also having large areas covered in glaciers.
A sparsely populated island nation in the north west of Europe, Iceland is also known for its hot springs, fishing industry and high quality of life.
The country was hit hard by the 2008 global financial crisis, but has seen steady economic recovery since 2010. Recent years have also seen Iceland become increasingly popular as a tourist destination, with travelers enticed both by the stunning natural scenery and the cultural attractions of capital Reykjavík – celebrated for its colorful buildings, vibrant music scene and nightlife.
Depending on your nationality and how long you intend to stay, it may not be necessary to get a visa for Iceland. However, those who intend to study in Iceland for more than three months will need to apply for a residence permit, via the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration. This can be applied for once the student has been officially granted a place at a university in Iceland. Applications take around 90 days to be processed, and students should apply in time to receive their permit before arrival in the country.
Applications are submitted directly to each university, with requirements and deadlines varying between institutions.
Public universities do not charge tuition fees, but there is a ‘registration fee’. This varies between universities, but for an example the University of Iceland currently charges ISK60,000 (about US$470) per year. Private universities charge both tuition and registration fees, which vary depending on the course and institution. Fees are usually higher for students from outside the EU.
The University of Iceland advises students to allow about ISK125,540 (US$980) per month to cover accommodation and other living expenses.