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study in Iceland

Graduate programs in Iceland

Graduate programs in Iceland take three forms:
  • Postgraduate certificates, which take one year to complete and are available in various subjects
  • Masters degrees, which are very similar to those in the UK, lasting two years and involving a thesis and independent research
  • Doctoral degrees, which are available at the University of Iceland (in Reykjavik), the Agricultural University of Iceland and Reykjavik University
Iceland has a compact university system, with a small international cohort of students embedded into its distinctive Nordic way of life. Eight universities make up its higher education system, offering everything from agricultural sciences to fine art.
With longstanding mythic traditions and a landscape that sweeps and erupts from the earth in formations that you’ll never forget, if you’re studying for a graduate degree in a subject aligned with geography, archaeology, ancient history or geology you could hardly choose a better place.

Population: 323,002

Education Overview

There are eight universities in Iceland, and those that offer graduate programs tend to do so in fairly specific areas – although across the country’s universities most bases are covered. You can study for a graduate program at:

Agricultural University of Iceland – graduate programs in the faculties of Land and Animal Resources, Environmental Sciences and Vocational and Continuing Education.

Bifröst University – for various graduate programs in law, business and management.

Hólar University College – graduate programs in equine science, aqua-culture and aquatic biology, and tourism.

Iceland Academy of the Arts – the only university in the country that offers graduate programs in the arts, including architecture, design, fine art and composition. 

Reykjavík University – numerous graduate programs, in the schools of Business, Computer Science, Law and Science and Engineering.

University of Akureyri – masters in the schools of Health Sciences, Business and Science, and Humanities and Social Sciences.

University of Iceland – over 200 masters and doctoral programs, from the faculties of Business Administration, economics, Law, Political Science, Social and Human Sciences, Social Work and Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies.

University Centre of the West Fjords – for masters in Coastal Marine Management.

Many universities in Iceland are now offering courses at least in part in English, in order to widen their appeal to international students. Currently around 5% of students in Iceland are international.

Immigration and visas in Iceland

Students from within the EU can study in Iceland without the need for a visa, although if staying for more than three months (as is highly likely) as residence permit is required – you can get this on arrival in the country. This is despite Iceland not technically being an EU member state.

Students from outside the EU should obtain residence permit from the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration. Once this has been approved they need to acquire a student visa from the Icelandic embassy in their home country, before they travel to Iceland.

All students must also apply for an Icelandic ID number (kennitala) when they arrive in the country.

Most universities in Iceland have an international office that you can contact in order to discuss the exact nature of your visa and application requirements.

Life in Iceland

Iceland’s physical geography - from its unearthly glaciers to its bubbling geysers to the hot springs where you can bathe in thermal water outdoors – have rightfully given it the moniker of “the land of ice and fire.”

This unique country offers its residents a largely outdoor lifestyle, which in turn leads to a very high quality of life and a healthy population. Outdoor pursuits are popular, and Icelanders are very in touch with the world around them. For some, this even extends to baking their own fresh rye bread in the thermal earth – although don’t worry, all home comforts are also a given!

This outdoor lifestyle is likely to suit international students who are in Iceland to study for a masters, as the majority of graduate programs offered are centred on the physical landscape and the environment that defines the country.

According to the Icelandic Student Loan Fund, a student in Iceland can expect to spend around 140.000 ISK (950 Euros) on living costs per month.

The majority of Icelanders speak English, meaning communication should be relatively easy if you have knowledge of the language.

Working in Iceland

Students are free to apply for a work permit whilst they are studying in Iceland, although most graduate courses are fairly intense so universities may recommend that you don’t work during them. Visa restrictions limit working hours for non-EU students to 20 per week.
Around 10% of employees currently working in Iceland are from elsewhere; popular industries include tourism, software production, and the fishing and energy industries.


Not all universities in Iceland have accommodation that they own themselves, however some have agreements with guesthouses that are available to rent out to their students. These guesthouses will have amenities such as kitchens, bathrooms and laundry facilities.
According to the Icelandic Student Loan Fund, students could pay anything upwards of 45.00 ISK (305 Euros) per month for a rented room.  

Check with your university to see what accommodation options are available to you as an international student.


Despite what its name (and the fact that it is located just south of the Arctic Circle) would imply, Iceland’s climate is milder than might be expected.

The southern coastal areas are warmer than the north, whilst the south of the country also gets more rain.

In capital city of Reykjavik, the average temperature in January is -4 °C, rising to 11°C in July.


There are no public trains in Iceland. Whilst the most popular method of public transport is bus, which is cheap and efficient (although be aware that drivers rarely carry change), the remoteness of most towns and the rugged landscape means that the majority of Icelanders travel everywhere by car.

Internationally, London is a three hour flight away and can be reached without too much expense on various airlines.


The currency of Iceland is the Krona.

What to do next

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