Icelandic Universities Report Application Increases

Háskóli Íslands University of Iceland

University applications in Iceland increased significantly this year, with notable growth in health, education, and science fields. The University of Akureyri, Iceland University of the Arts, Bifröst University, Reykjavik University, and the University of Iceland all reported record or substantial increases in applications.

STEAM fields popular

Applications increased at most universities in Iceland this year, according to the government’s website. Notable growth occurred in the fields of health, education, and science, according to application data from the universities, whose enrollment deadline for the upcoming fall semester ended earlier this month.

“We are very pleased to see this increase in university applications, especially in the STEAM fields (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics). The increase indicates that our ministry’s initiatives are working, and more people are recognising the opportunities a university education provides,” Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir, Minister of Higher Education, Industry, and Innovation, is quoted as saying.

Read More: What are the top university programmes in Iceland

Record number of applications

The University of Akureyri saw a 7% rise in applications from last year, with nearly a 20% increase since 2022. Applications to its nursing programme rose by 11%, and its teacher education programme saw a 22% increase. The biotechnology programme, unique to the University of Akureyri, also received a record number of applications, according to the government’s website.

Record numbers of applications were also reported by the Iceland University of the Arts and Bifröst University. Both institutions saw significant increases in applications after accepting an offer from the Minister of Higher Education for full state funding in exchange for the abolition of tuition fees. Bifröst University received nearly 1,500 applications, a threefold increase from the previous year.

The Iceland University of the Arts experienced the largest growth in its art education department, with applications nearly tripling, alongside significant increases in its design and visual arts departments.

Reykjavik University also received a record number of applications, with an almost equal gender distribution, though slightly more men applied (53%). Applications to the engineering department increased by 16% and to the industrial and technical sciences department by 10%.

The University of Iceland saw a 10% increase in applications from last year, with even higher growth in its engineering and natural sciences programmes. Applications to various engineering disciplines increased by nearly 34% in electrical and computer engineering and by almost 43% in environmental and civil engineering.

There was also strong interest in programmes related to primary school teaching, pedagogy, and health sciences at the University of Iceland. For instance, 270 individuals registered for the entrance exam for medical school, with 75 students being admitted, 15 more than in previous years.

“Icelandic as a Second Language” University’s Most Popular Subject

Háskóli Íslands University of Iceland

The University of Iceland received nearly 9,500 applications for undergraduate and graduate programmes for the 2023-24 school year. This is an increase of over 6% from last year. Icelandic as a second language proved the most popular subject, with over 640 applications received, Vísir reports.

Almost 9,500 applications received

The application deadline for the 2023-2024 school year to the University of Iceland expired on June 5. Nearly 9,500 applications were received for undergraduate and graduate programmes, with the number of applicants having increased by over 6% year-on-year.

An announcement from the University of Iceland notes that the university received a total number of 5,357 applications for undergraduate studies (up by over 6% year-on-year); a total of 4,115 applications for graduate studies (up by over 7% year-on-year); and nearly 100 applications for doctoral studies.

As noted by Vísir, the number of foreign applications received by the University of Iceland continues to increase in parallel with the school’s growing foreign cooperation and the increased diversification of Icelandic society. The number of foreign applications increased by 20% year-on-year, amounting to nearly 2,000 (compared to the approximately 1,000 foreign applications received in 2016).

“Icelandic as a second language” the most popular subject

The Faculty of the Humanities received the most applications of all departments, or nearly 1,390. Among the subjects offered by the department, Icelandic as a second language is by far the most popular, with more than 640 applications having been received for either a BA programme or a shorter practical one-year programme. This is a year-on-year increase of just over 33%.

“It’s a real pleasure to see that Icelandic as a second language is a very popular subject. This is where the University of Iceland fulfils its social role. This is a subject that we will continue to promote,” Jón Atli Benediktsson, President of the University of Iceland, told Vísir.

As noted by Vísir, there are no restrictions on the number of students accepted into the subject and there is no intention to impose such restrictions. Jón Atli speculated that the increase in applications was to be explained by a greater diversity of university students and the increase in the number of immigrants.

“Regarding the increase in the number of foreign applications in general, diversification, of course, plays a role, alongside the good reputation that the University of Iceland enjoys abroad.”

Deported Asylum Seekers Have Right to Reevaluation, Appeals Board Rules

Asylum seekers protest Reykjavík

The Immigration and Asylum Appeals Board has ruled that a group of asylum seekers have a right to a reevaluation of their applications, RÚV reports. As many from the group have already been deported to Greece, however, a lawyer for the appellants has stated that it might prove difficult for his clients to reappear before the Directorate of Immigration.

Difficult to implement the ruling

In October, Reykjavík’s District Court ruled in favour of Palestinian Suleiman Al Masr in his case against the government. The court concluded, among other things, that Al Masr could not be blamed for the delay in the government’s processing of his application, which resulted in his not being deported to Greece (while social restrictions were in effect and travellers were obligated to submit a negative COVID test).

Following the decision, Suleiman’s lawyer, Helgi Þorsteinsson Silva, asked the Appeals Board to rule in similar cases. The Appeals Board published the rulings this morning.

“There are over twenty rulings and over ten individuals whose applications have been reopened because the premises were similar to Al Masr’s case. For many of them, the decision means that it’s rather likely that they will be granted asylum in Iceland,” Helgi told RÚV.

All in all, Helgi believes that there are approximately 100 asylum seekers who have the same cause for appeal.

“But what’s interesting is that many of the asylum seekers have already been deported and some of them were arrested and put into custody not so long ago,” Helgi observed, adding that many of those dwelling in refugee camps in Greece would find it difficult to return to Iceland and appear before the Directorate of Immigration.

“It’s not uncommon for individuals,” Helgi explained, “who’ve been asylum seekers in Greece for some time, and who don’t have valid visas, for example, to have arrived in Iceland on the basis of Greek travel documents. In some instances, those documents are now expired. It could take a long time to renew those papers,” Helgi remarked, while also noting that the Greek asylum system was on the verge of collapse, as had been widely reported.