With Fewer Tourists, Hotels Start Renting to Students

In the absence of the multitudes of tourist multitudes who usually make their way to Iceland year-round, Reykjavík hotels and guesthouses are scrambling to fill their rooms by renting to students, Vísir reports.

Kex Hostel is planning to open its rooms to students this fall and is working with the National Union of Icelandic Students to set standardized monthly rates. Hótel Saga is offering rooms to students and teachers alike at a rate of ISK 150,000 [$1,090; €916] a month. B47 Hostel, located in the former Directorate of Health on Barónstígur in downtown Reykjavík, is also offering academic-year accommodations to students, with rates varying depending on the room. A shared room starts at ISK 70,000 [$508; €487] a month, while a single is ISK 110,000-120,000 [$799-872; €672-732] a month.

B47 proprietor Þorsteinn Steingrímsson is looking to put a special spin on his hostel-turned-dorm: “My idea here is to create a sort of student commune,” he explains. “And elsewhere in the building we have what I’m calling Baróns’ Akaademía. There I’m renting out the guesthouse to all kinds of scholars and people who can assist the students if they seek it out.”

So far, says Þorsteinn, the reception has been positive and he has every hope of filling the hostel with students this fall.

“This is like one big house,” he remarks. “There’s a homey atmosphere I think kids will appreciate since they can’t go downtown to bars and such.”

Icelandic Youth Mark One Year of Weekly Climate Strikes

Climate Strike Iceland

Students demonstrated in Austurvöllur square on Friday, demanding that the government take action on climate issues. Friday marked the one-year anniversary of the first weekly School Strike for Climate in Iceland. To mark the day, primary, secondary, and college students gathered in front of Hallgrímskirkja just before noon and marched to Austurvöllur square, in front of the Icelandic Parliament, where student leaders delivered speeches demanding action on climate change.

Vísir reports that young Icelandic activists involved in the ongoing #FridaysForFuture school strikes say the government has yet to take meaningful steps towards addressing climate issues in the country. This was the 52nd Friday that young people in Iceland have demonstrated in support of climate change action.

Jóna Þórey Pétursdóttir, the president of the University of Iceland’s Student Council, told reporters that she believed students’ ongoing protests have had a measurable impact thus far, particularly in terms of making the topic of climate change a public debate and raising awareness about climate issues. “…[W]e’re showing that young people are ready to take matters into our own hands. The goal, of course, was to demand increased measures from the government and we’ve yet to see those. Which is why we’re going to continue,” she remarked.

“We want a bright future,” Brynjar Einarsson, a student at Háteigsskóli primary school, told reporters. “A future that isn’t polluted. One where we can live without needing to be worried that we’re going to die because of climate change.”

Brynjar’s 13-year-old classmate, Jökull Jónsson, has been involved in the school strikes for climate from the beginning, and expressed a certain amount of pessimism about the future, although he did have specific ideas about ways in which Iceland could meaningfully address climate change issues.

“Really, we just need to reduce our carbon footprint as much as possible and try to be environmentally friendly.”


Over 6,500 Students Starting at Icelandic Universities this Fall

Háskóli Íslands University of Iceland

The academic year is underway again at most of Iceland’s universities. RÚV reports that just over 6,500 new students are embarking on college-level studies in the country this fall.

Most of these students are starting as undergraduates at the University of Iceland in Reykjavík. Current freshman enrolment stands at 3,400, although it’s likely that around 100 will register late in the next few weeks. This is up from last year’s freshmen class of 3,300 students.

Just over 1,700 new students are starting at the University of Reykjavík (HR) this fall, including 140 exchange students. This is a 9% increase in first-time enrolment from last year. Men make up 56% of HR’s incoming class and women 44%.

The University of Akureyri is welcoming 1,100 new students, 800 of whom are women. Bifröst University in West Iceland has 226 new students—136 in undergraduate programs and 90 in Master’s courses. The Agricultural University of Iceland, also in West Iceland, has an incoming class of 130 students—75 undergraduates, 35 vocational students, and 20 who are taking advanced degrees. Two-thirds of these students are women.

At the time of writing, the University of Hólar in North Iceland was unable to provide enrolment figures.

University of Iceland “Taking Advantage” of Student Instructors

Háskóli Íslands University of Iceland

Student instructors do roughly one third of the teaching at the University of Iceland, RÚV reports. These instructors are not unionised and their wages and working conditions are determined unilaterally by their employer. They have no sick leave or striking rights.

“I think the university is taking advantage of student teachers quite a lot, unfortunately,” says Védís Ragnheiðardóttir, doctoral student and chairman of the university’s doctoral students’ association. Védís, who holds a master’s degree, gets paid just over ISK 2,300 ($19.40/€17.20) per hour for teaching a ten-credit course.

The University of Iceland is the country’s largest and oldest institution of higher education. It has over 15,000 students in undergraduate and postgraduate programs. In recent years, student teachers have been responsible for about 30% of teaching at the university. Doctoral students and post-doctoral researchers have requested to join the Association of University Teachers, a trade union which would guarantee them employment rights such as sick leave, annual holiday entitlement, and access to vocational funds.

Associate Professor Michael Dal, who chairs the Association of University Teachers, says the group has discussed the issue with the university’s board, which “has taken on the issue well and has tried to make changes.”

Fewer Immigrants Graduate from Upper Secondary Schools

Reykjavík school

New data published by Statistics Iceland shows that graduation rates among students in Iceland’s upper secondary schools vary depending on student’s origin.

According to the report, “[w]hen examining all graduates at the upper secondary level in 2016-2017, as a share of the population aged 18-22, then almost 24% of the population with Icelandic background graduated this year. On the other hand, 16.5% of those born abroad with one parent born abroad graduated this year, and just over 8% of immigrants.” Immigrants, in this study, are people who were born abroad and have both parents of foreign origin.

There were 5,098 graduates at the upper secondary and tertiary levels combined in 2016-2017, which is 617 fewer graduates overall than the previous year. Of these, 5,630 were graduates from upper secondary school, which is 645 fewer upper secondary graduates than the year before. The study coordinators say that this can partially be credited to the fact that there were changes to the curriculum at the upper secondary level which led to fewer students graduating from two-year business certificate programs.

The study also found that fewer students graduated at the tertiary, or university level: 4,479 graduates, which is 2.3% fewer than the year before. Of these, 2,664 received undergraduate degrees, 1, 275 received master’s degrees, and 62 received PhDs. Women comprised 66.3% of university graduates.


New Game Design Degree Program Unveiled

The Ministry of Education has approved a new BSc degree program in video game design, RÚV reports.

The three-year distance learning program will be offered by the Keilir Institute of Technology in collaboration with the Norway’s Noroff University College’s School of Technology and Digital Media. Face-to-face meetings will be held at Keilir’s Ásbrú campus on the Reykjanes peninsula.

Program director Nanna Traustadóttir says that the game design program has been in development for several years and is meant to compete with similar programs abroad.Initially, the program will enroll around 40 students. Nanna says that the gaming sector is massive and that there will continue to be a great need for people who are proficient in game design in the future.

Nanna is also emphasizes that a lot more goes into game design than many people think. “Creating a video game is, in all reality, creating a whole new world. We’re talking about a story, dramatization, characters—not to mention the enormous amount of work that goes into each individual character. We’re talking about all kinds of computer processing—not just programming, but obviously programming as well.”

Long Waitlists for Student Housing

Reykjavík University

Around 1,179 students are on a waiting list for housing in the Reykjavík capital area, RÚV reports. The University of Iceland’s housing association Félagsstofnun stúdenta has a waitlist of 729 for the fall semester. The number is slightly lower than last year, when 824 students were waitlisted for the fall semester. The association hopes to eventually provide housing for 15-20% of the university’s students, but currently only provides around 10%.

Housing association Byggingafélag námsmanna, open to students from various capital area universities, has a waitlist of around 450 for the fall semester.