Record Number of Applications at Arts University

Tollhúsið Tryggvagata

Applications at the Iceland University of the Arts have nearly doubled since last year. The university announced in February that it would abolish tuition fees this fall following a decision by Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir that offered independent universities full state funding if they were to do away with tuition fees.

Positive effect of dropping tuition fees

Rector Kristín Eysteinsdóttir told Vísir that she was not worried about students dropping out, but rather that she welcomed the increased attendance and expected more applications next year. “We had 538 applications last year, but almost 1,000 now,” she said after the deadline for applications past last night. “Applications for arts education are still open, so I expect this to end at around 1,000 applications. That would be an almost 100% increase.”

She said that the school has never seen numbers like this and that they go above and beyond expectations. “We can’t accept everyone, but it’s incredibly positive that the abolishment of tuition fees has this effect,” she said. “In fact, this confirms what we thought, that the costs were prohibitive for a lot of prospective students.”

Acting programme most popular

The biggest increase is in architecture, design and visual arts, Kristín said. The acting department remains the most popular study programme, but only ten people are accepted each year from a group of 200 to 300 applicants.

She added that she expected more people to apply next year, especially to the masters programmes. “We get applicants there who have children and need to plan further ahead,” Kristín said.

District Court Orders Reykjavík City Theatre to Pay Former Employee ISK 5.5 Million

Judge's gavel

This week, the district court ordered Leikfélag Reykjavíkur (the Reykjavik City Troupe), which operates the Reykjavík City Theatre (Borgarleikhúsið); and Kristín Eysteinsdóttir, Director of the Reykjavík City Theatre, to pay actor Atli Rafn Sigurðsson ISK 5.5 million on the grounds of wrongful termination and defamation. Sigurðsson was fired in December 2017 – two weeks before the premiere of the play Medea, in which Sigurðsson was to play a leading role – following accusations of sexual harassment. Eysteinsdóttir declined to comment on the decision, referring the matter to her and the theatre’s lawyer, Sigurður Örn Hilmarsson.

Hilmarsson will be appealing the ruling on behalf of his clients, believing that the decision will engender “uncertainty” among employers, RÚV reports: “Our decision to appeal is two-fold. On the one hand, my clients disagree with the court’s decision. On the other hand, my clients feel that the ruling creates uncertainty regarding the duties of employers and managers in cases where the safety and well-being of their employees are compromised,” Hilmarsson stated, who is surprised by the court’s decision.

“Yes, we’re surprised. First and foremost because the court’s ruling does not, in my clients’ opinion, consider the interests of other employees, i.e. to those individuals who complained about sexual harassment and who experienced discomfort in the workplace. They confided in their employers and their interests were not considered in the ruling. Instead, the interests of a single employee took precedence.” Hilmarsson believes that the case is a test case for accusations of this kind.

Yesterday, Vísir reported that the Reykjavík City Theatre will continue to honour the confidentiality of Sigurðsson’s accusers when the case is heard before the Land’s Court (Landsréttur). The Land’s Court is a mid-tier court handling cases in between the District Courts and the Supreme Court of Iceland.