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Masters in Iceland
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Masters in Iceland

Now, unless you are a die-hard fan of the TV show “The Vikings” or really into Norse mythology, you might be asking yourself – what does this text say - Góðan daginn! Vernig hefur þú það? In Icelandic, it stands for “Hello. How are you?” and you better remember it, as this article will not only highlight why you should consider a Masters in Iceland but also give you some helpful language tips! 

Masters in Iceland – higher education details for 2019
Top-ranked Universities* 2
Tuition fees at state universities p.a.€535 - €3500
Average Living Costs per month (+ housing)€1350
Number of Masters in English100+
% population that speaks English90%
Forbes Global 2000 companies0

 *according to THE’s World University Rankings

Choosing Iceland as a Masters study destination

In the past few years, Iceland has attracted a lot of attention in the world of sports – or more precisely in football. Regardless of a small population of around 350,000 people living on a separated island far away in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, the Icelanders made some memorable achievements during the UEFA Euro in 2016 and the FIFA World Cup 2018. Remember those epic chants flowing around each stadium coming together with the clap of the hands of thousands of Icelandic fans? HÚH! HÚH! HÚH!  

Putting this aside, Iceland is currently one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe attracting with various mountains, glaciers, volcanoes and of course – the famous Northern Lights. And since the country is a bit chilly, there are also a handful of activities such as climbing, fishing and skiing that catch the eye not only of Europeans – more than 650,000 visitors came from North America in 2017! Oh, and did we mention the strong economic development and political stability going around the whole island, especially in the southwest area and the capital – Reykjavík? Or the rich Icelandic culture and the non-comparable lifestyle? 

So far, so good – Iceland is shaping up as a dream study destination. And we haven’t even talked about Icelandic higher education and Masters degree opportunities! 

Fun fact: There is a wise saying in Iceland: “If you don’t like the weather – just wait 5 minutes.”

Universities in Iceland

There are in total 7 universities located around Iceland, with the majority of them being either fully state supported or private:

  • University of Akureyri
  • University of Iceland
  • Bifröst University
  • Reykjavík University
  • Agricultural University of Iceland
  • Hólar University College
  • Iceland Academy of the Arts

More than 18,000 students are currently admitted in the country’s higher education system, with around 5% of them being international and having the opportunity to study in English

The Icelandic way of teaching or delivery method, is lecture-based with a strong emphasis on individual research. Examination is standard, usually organized at the end of the semester.

The characteristics of a general Masters degree include a 2-year study period concluding with either a thesis or research project. Upon graduation, students can expect to receive either a “Master of Science” (MSc) or “Master of Arts” (MA). As for choices of study, you will not be disappointed – Business & Economics, Engineering and Science & Mathematics are some of the most commonly offered areas. 

Looking for university excellence and prestige in Iceland? Then you should know this – the University of Iceland and Reykjavík University are both placed in the Top 300-350 group of Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2019. 

Admission process and requirements in Iceland

Traditionally, as in other European countries, the most important piece of documentary will be your Bachelor degree in the area you are looking to apply for. However, bear in mind that each university is individually responsible for the set requirements and they can differ greatly. For the worst case scenario, you should prepare for the following:

  • Application form
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Motivation/recommendation letter
  • Pre-admission examination/interview
  • Preparatory course
  • Proof of English language proficiency  
  • Student Visa

Language requirements are always a vital component of application documents. For an English-taught Masters in Iceland, you can count on either IETLS (with a score of 6.0-6.5) or TOEFL (with 500-550 for the paper-based version). 

Chances are that you might be interested in a Masters in Icelandic instead. For this situation, contact your chosen university and find out more about preparatory language courses usually conducted in the summer. 

The ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) is fully applicable. 

In terms of application deadlines for students in Iceland, the dates vary greatly and depend not only on your citizenship but also chosen university – public or private, and beginning of the semester. For this reason, students should contact the institution individually or find out more online on the official website portals. As an orientation, the most common final dates for application are based around spring

Note: In Iceland, there is no central application system connecting the universities. In other words, students will have to submit their documents either the old-fashioned way (personally) or apply online at the university website.

Tuition fees and scholarships in Iceland

Generally, public Icelandic universities have tuition fees usually set in the form of either a registration or administration fee charged on an annual basis. For example, the University of Iceland charges a payment of ISK 75,000, or around €535 per year

By contrast, if you wish to apply for a private university - Reykjavik University, you should expect figures ranging from ISK 379,000 (€3000) to ISK 1,050,000 (€8400) per semester depending on your chosen field of study. 

But here comes the best part – you can find a handful of scholarship opportunities for a Masters in Iceland. Aside from the universities, the Icelandic Ministry of Education, Science and Culture also offers financial aid for students seeking a degree in specific areas. Find out more about the Icelandic Government Scholarships. 

University accreditation and quality assurance

University accreditation is provided exclusively by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture in Iceland. However, some study programmes are also additionally accredited by other institutions, mostly MBAs. 

Planning life in Iceland – accommodation, living costs and transportation

Now that you are aware of all the details regarding your study in Iceland, it is time to find out more about where you can find a place to stay, why you should plan costs and how to reach point B from point A. 

Accommodation is always tricky since you have to not only face competition but also meet certain deadlines. As a general rule, if you are planning to rely on a dormitory, make sure to apply as early as possible – usually 3-4 months before the start of your semester. 

For example, the University of Iceland offers an online platform allowing each student to learn about monthly costs, responsibilities or even apply for accommodation online.

On the other hand, there are also private rentals. Since there are only 7 universities, this means that you will be most probably studying in either Akureyri, Bifröst, Hólar, Hvanneyri or the capital – Reykjavík. And even though these cities and towns are spread in different parts of the country, rents will be high everywhere. 

This is due to the fact that the living standard is high just like in other Nordic countries. In figures, for Reykjavík you can expect a monthly rent in the lows of ISK 100,000 (€712) and the highs of ISK 150,000 (€1068), including utilities. But don’t be affected by these numbers, as the Icelandic government offers housing benefits that can significantly aid your student budget. There are various online specialized websites that can assist you in finding a spot. 

Since now you are aware of the high standard, you shouldn’t be surprised by the living costs. For a basket of groceries including 12 eggs, bread, cheese, milk, rice, chicken meat and a few fruit and vegetables you will be looking at a total of around ISK 6000 which is roughly €43. Or to sum up, you will need €200 to survive through a month by cooking and having 3 healthy, regular dishes each day. 

If you seek to take out a fellow friend or your girlfriend to a regular restaurant, however, you better prepare at least ISK 12,000 for a three-course meal. Want to grab a beer at a local pub? No problem – that will be ISK 1,100, please! Skál! 

Or in other words from a student point of view – pricing is not that bad, but it is just as high as in countries such as Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

Coming to transportation, you might be amazed to find out that the public transport system in Iceland is relatively poor. Even if you are in a bigger city like Reykjavík, your best chance of going around will be the bus which in turn is regular, safe and reliable. There is also water transport if you seek to pay a visit to continental Europe. 

Fun fact: Did you know that Iceland does not have a public railway system?

Finding a job in Iceland

One of the most efficient ways to battle the high pricing in Iceland is to look for a student job. And even though a large proportion of the population speaks English, it is highly advisable that you step up your knowledge in Icelandic.

But since you will be focusing on your studies rather than on career development, it is best to search for a student job that provides good income instead of experience. The European Job Mobility Portal (EURES) can help you find some work opportunities in Iceland.

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