Higher Education System of Iceland

The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture is responsible for higher education system in Iceland. 
The higher education in Iceland dates back to 1847 with the establishment of the Theological seminary. Then in 1874 was formed the Medical School, followed by the School of Law in 1908. These 3 higher education institutions were integrated in 1911 and led to the formation of the largest institution in Iceland- the University of Iceland. 

In December 1997, new legislation on higher education institution was introduced. As per this law, the term "haskoli" is used for traditional universities as well as institutions that do not conduct research. The higher education institutions- both public and private get funds from the state. 

The higher education institutions in Iceland offer a wide range of programmes. Many of the higher education institutions are operated by the State. The higher education institutions vary depending upon the number of study programmes offered and the involvement in research. 

Higher Education Qualifications: Snapshot

Following are the higher education qualifications offered in Iceland: 
  • Diploma: A diploma is awarded in several fields, such as languages, business and pedagogy. This qualification required 1.5-2 years of study.
  • Bachelor’s degree: This degree requires 3-4 years of full-time study. 
  • Candidatus degree: This degree requires 4-6 years of full-time study.
  • Postgraduate certificate: This qualification is provided in a few subjects only and requires 1 year of postgraduate study.
  • Masters degree: This degree requires 1-2 years of full-time study.
  • Doctorate degree: This duration of this degree varies depending upon the field and it is conferred by only 3 higher education institutions in Iceland: the University of Iceland, Reykjavik University, and the Agricultural University of Iceland.

Admission Requirements

Pupils must have passed the matriculation exam or its equivalent, and obtain the Studentsprof. Stduents who have not finished their matriculation exam, for them, their professional experience is taken into consideration. 
To gain admittance into the higher education institution- technical and vocational study programmes, students must have practical experience in the relevant discipline.  


In Iceland, higher education is assessed through the written or oral exams, along with the programme related assignments. Additionally, students are required to complete a research project or a final thesis in order to receive the university degree.

Academic Year

The higher education system in Iceland is divided into semester. The academic year commences in September and ends in May. 

Special Assistance

Special assistance is provided to students at the Icelandic higher education institutions. Student counselling centres are running at the institutions. These centres give advice on the choice of courses and institutions to the students. Students with disabilities are also given special assistance.

Some of the higher education institutions in Iceland have an official policy on how to deal the students with special needs, such as physical disabilities, psychological problems, or dyslexia.

Tuition Fees

In Iceland, the state-run higher education institutions do not charge any tuition fees. Though, students are required to pay an annual registration fees. Private higher education institutions in Iceland charge tuition fees. 

Financial Support

The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture offers many scholarships to International students to study at the higher education institutions in Iceland. There are many funding options available, so contact your chosen institution to know more about the support options. 

Student Residence Permit

The European Union (EU) citizens do not need a visa in order to study in Iceland. The non-EU students are required to get a visa to study in Iceland.
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