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Masters Study in Iceland - A Guide for 2018

A Masters in Iceland offers diverse cultural opportunities and a high quality of life in extraordinary surroundings.

Though it’s one of the most sparsely populated countries in Europe, Iceland is home to over 1,200 international students – around 5% of its total student population. Along with more traditional academic subjects, renewable energy and eco-friendly sciences are top of the agenda for this green island.

This guide explains everything you’ll need to know about Iceland’s universities and postgraduate degrees, including fees, funding and visa requirements.

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Postgraduate opportunities in Iceland – what’s on offer for 2018?

Iceland has a grand cultural and educational tradition dating back to the Icelandic Sagas, written around the thirteenth century. It’s also the location of what is widely considered the world’s first parliament, first convened in 930!

This rich heritage, combined with a lunar landscape and unique geological features, make Iceland an unforgettable place to study a postgraduate degree. Here are some of the reasons why you should a study Masters in Iceland.

  • No tuition fees – If you study at a public university in Iceland, you won’t have to pay any tuition fees (this applies both to EU and non-EU nationals). However, you do have to pay an annual registration fee of around €595.
  • Unique research possibilities – Situated between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, Iceland offers unparalleled opportunities for research into a range of scientific fields: geothermal energy, volcanic activity and glaciers, to name a few.
  • Quality of life – Iceland consistently appears near the top of many quality of life indexes. Its literacy rate today is the highest in the world, it has a fantastic record of equality and, with no standing army, it can be considered one of the world’s most peaceful countries.
  • Language – English is widely spoken in Iceland, so you won’t have to worry too much about mastering Icelandic (although there are plenty of language courses if you do decide to try your hand at it!)

Masters Study in Iceland - Key Details
Universities 7
Oldest University University of Iceland (1911)
International Students 1,249
Course Length 2 years
Typical Fees (Domestic / EU) €595
Academic Year September to May

Icelandic universities

There are currently seven higher education institutions in Iceland – four public and three private. These universities reflect a range of Iceland’s academic specialisms: two are agricultural institutions and one is an academy of the arts, while the remaining four offer a wide variety of Masters programmes.

University degrees in Iceland are organised into the Bologna system of three consecutive cycles: Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate. Masters students are therefore categorised as ‘Second Cycle’ students.

All higher education institutions in Iceland are accredited by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. However, universities in Iceland are highly autonomous, and have a lot of control over their curriculum. As a result, you may find that similar programmes vary in duration and style in different institutions.

Course types

If you’ve studied in a European country before, Iceland’s system will be fairly familiar to you. Postgraduate studies at Masters level last between six months and two years, and are worth 30-120 ECTS credits. The workload for one year corresponds to 60 credits.

Teaching methods vary somewhat between programmes and level of study. In most cases there is a combination of lectures, seminars, individual assignments and group work. In technical and science programmes, laboratory work and practical training are more common teaching methods.

Universities in Iceland offer both taught and research Masters programmes. Research Masters consist of a substantial research project overseen by a supervisor, while taught programmes consist of modular teaching ending with a dissertation.

Assessments throughout the academic year involve written, oral and practical examinations, with examinations usually taking place at the end of each semester.

Search for a Masters in Iceland

You can use our course listings to search and compare Icelandic Masters degree programmes.

Masters fees and funding in Iceland

Public universities in Iceland don’t charge tuition fees for its Masters programmes (at least not in the conventional sense) but you will have to pay an annual registration fee of ISK 75,000 (€595).

Private universities in Iceland do charge tuition fees. Depending on the course, the institution and your nationality, these can be anywhere between approximately ISK 540,000 and ISK 2,000,000 per year (€4,288 to €15,880).

Funding

Some universities offer merit-based grants, but you’ll need to contact the university directly to find out more.

The Icelandic Research Fund (IRF) is aimed at students in research studies, providing funding for research projects approved after a proposal. It is more commonly aimed at PhD students, but Masters students can also apply.

The Icelandic Student Innovation Fund (ISIF) is a similar source of funding. Projects take place over the summer, and you are provided with a supervisor to oversee the work.

Erasmus+ scholarships are also available to EU students and could cover your travel and accommodation costs. See our guides to Erasmus Masters funding for more information.

Applying for a Masters in Iceland

There is no central portal for Masters applications in Iceland, but the overall application process is relatively simple.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need a Bachelors degree in a relevant subject to enroll on an Icelandic Masters programme. Depending on the language of instruction, you may need to supply proof of your proficiency in Icelandic or English.

Application process

Applications must be made directly to the university, so deadlines and processing periods differ. Generally, application deadlines are between March and June each year, but are sometimes as early as February for international students.

In research-oriented programmes, students must reach an agreement with a supervisor on a research project for their Masters thesis, and then file a joint application with that supervisor for a specific research project. The project must then be accepted by a review committee for the student to be allowed to enter the programme.

Supporting documents

As mentioned above, proof of proficiency is usually asked for when you are applying for a programme of study in a second language. Other documents may include:

  • A copy of your CV
  • References (from your previous university)
  • An academic transcript
  • A copy of your passport

International students are usually charged an application fee of around €50.

Healthcare

EU/EEA students who are covered by an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) are eligible to pay the same rate as Icelandic nationals when visiting a doctor. You must take your EHIC card and passport with you when you visit your local clinic to be eligible to pay the lower fee.

If you’re not an EU/EEA national, it’s vital to arrange private healthcare insurance before you arrive in Iceland.

Masters student visas in Iceland

EU/EEA nationals

If you’re an EU/EEA citizen, you don’t need a visa to study in Iceland. However, you do have to register your legal residence at Registers Iceland once you’ve arrived in the country (Registers Iceland is the civic registry of Iceland).

You’ll need the following documents with you to do this:

  • Application form
  • Passport
  • Admission letter from your university
  • Medical insurance details (i.e. your EHIC)
  • Bank statements confirming your means of financial support (ISK 180,550 per month – around €1,434)

Non-EU/EEA nationals

If you’re from outside the EU/EEA, you must apply for a residence permit before you arrive in Iceland, as soon as you’ve received an acceptance letter from your university.

To apply for a residence permit, you must contact the Directorate of Immigration in Iceland. Alongside the application form, you will need to provide:

  • Proof of support or income equivalent to ISK 180,550 per month (€1,434)
  • Proof of health insurance
  • A housing certificate
  • Proof that you have registered at the university
  • A criminal record certificate
  • Medical certificate (if relevant)
  • A photocopy of your passport
  • One passport-sized photograph
  • Receipt for payment of the residence permit application

When you arrive in Iceland, you then need to visit the Directorate of Immigration to supply them with your passport, travel documents and housing certificate.

After your application has been processed, you’ll receive an Icelandic ID number and residence permit card.

Deadlines

  • Autumn semester – Application and all supporting documents must be received by the Directorate no later than 1 July, in order to grant the permit before semester starts.
  • Spring semester – Application and all supporting documents must be received by the Directorate no later than 1 November, in order to grant the permit before semester starts.

Permits are usually issued for six months or one semester at a time. You must apply for a renewal at least four weeks before your permit runs out.

Next steps

Employment opportunities are increasing in Iceland every year, especially in geological sciences, business and finance. These areas predominantly employ Icelandic speakers, however. If you haven’t managed to crack the language, then industries such as computer programming, gaming, and tourism may be more your niche.

If you decide to move home, you will still have broadened your horizons. Studying abroad provides you with superb language and interpersonal skills. Having challenged yourself with embracing a new culture, you will be able to show employers your adaptability and resilience in new situations. You will also be considered more culturally conscious, and as such better at dealing with cross-cultural situations. You may even wish to consider PhD level research as your next step.

Search for a Masters in Iceland

You can use our course listings to search and compare Masters degree programmes in Iceland.

Last updated - 07/02/2018

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