The Education System in Iceland
Icelandic education can be traced as far back as the 11th century, with one of its oldest gymnasiums having been founded in the year 1056. A globally renowned research institution, The University of Iceland was established in 1911, making it the country’s oldest university. It is home to around 1,100 international students today.
Currently, the development and execution of the education system in Iceland is handled by The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture
A defining characteristic of the education system in Iceland is its commitment to providing equal opportunities in education for all, regardless of one’s background. Icelandic higher education is also fairly recent, which means that study programmes were formed in a modern context, ensuring that they are relevant, contemporary and innovative.
There are 7 Icelandic universities in total and these are either state-funded or privately-owned.
Icelandic universities offer reputable programs in English within areas such as the Sciences, the Arts, Business and Law. Upper secondary education (which is like High School in the U.S) is not compulsory and has no tuition fee.
On the other hand, public state universities charge a registration fee in place of a tuition, and are open to anyone who has completed their upper secondary education.
Types of higher education programs in the Icelandic Educational System
- Bachelor degrees – These programs take three to four years to complete and do not usually result in a professional certification except for nursing (B.S) and compulsory schoolteachers (B.Ed)
- Candidatus degrees (kandidatsgráða) – certifies that the holder is eligible for a special office or profession. This program is generally finished after four to six years.
- Postgraduate certificates – This is awarded by some subjects after a year of postgraduate study.
- Masters degrees (M.A, M.S – meistaragráða) – This degree is granted after successfully completing two years of postgraduate study. A thesis or research project is a fundamental requirement in achieving this qualification.
- Doctorate degrees (Ph.D.- doktorsgráða) – This degree is awarded after completing a doctorate program and thesis.
The grading system in Iceland generally uses a grading scale of 0 – 10 where the passing grade is 5 and above. In majority of the higher academic institutions, an average score of 5 across all subjects, or a minimum mark of 5 for each subject is a requirement to pass.
Failing grades are not included in the calculation of a student’s grade-point average.
Iceland also follows the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) in which 60 study credits amount to a year of full time study, and 30 study credits are equal to one semester’s full-time study.
The Icelandic Academic Year
The traditional Icelandic academic year runs from September to May and is split into two semesters; Autumn and Spring. The Autumn semester typically runs from the start of September until late December while the Spring semester often begins from January until May.
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