Higher Education in Iceland

The final level is higher education, or háskóli (lit. "high school"). There are eight such institutions in the country, most of which are run by the state. The first institution, the University of Iceland, opened in 1911, and is still the principal higher education institution in the country. In recent years, however, more universities have opened across the country, widening the range of choices available. Legislation concerning higher education institutions was passed in 1997, which includes a definition of the term háskóli (to include universities which do not carry out research). There is also separate legislation in place for each public institution, defining their role in research and general organisation. Private and public universities both receive funding from the state.

The administration of each university is divided into the Senate, the rector, faculty meetings, faculty councils and deans (however, some universities are not divided into faculties). The Senate ultimately makes decisions on the running and organisation of the institution, and formulates policy. The state will formulate a contract with the university, defining the institution's objectives and the amount of funding that the state will give to the institution.

Despite the growing number of higher education institutions in the country, many students decide to pursue their university education abroad (around 16%, mostly in postgraduate studies).

The academic year lasts from September to May, and is divided into two terms: autumn and spring.

Most undergraduates will have to pass some form of matriculation exam to get into university; however those with sufficient work experience may be admitted in some cases. Vocational and technical courses have looser requirements, only stating that the applicant have some sort of experience in their chosen field of study. Institutions are free to set their own admission criteria. Registration for potential students takes place from May to June each year; however the application deadline for foreign students is earlier: March 15.

Student finance
In state-run institutions, students only need pay registration fees; there are no tuition fees. Private institutions, however, charge fees. All students are eligible to some financial support from the Icelandic Student Loan Fund; the exact amount depends on their financial and personal situation. The student must begin to repay this money two years after completing their study programme. In addition to Icelandic students, students from the European Union or EEA-EFTA member states are also eligible to apply for loans, if they have been working in their trade in the country for at least one year.

Annually there are a limited number of scholarships available for foreign students to study the Icelandic language and literature at the University of Iceland, offered by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture.

Grants are available for post-graduates in research universities, which are awarded on the basis of joint submission from student and professor, and approval from the respective faculty.