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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Adult education and training funding


3.Funding in education

3.3Adult education and training funding

Last update: 27 November 2023

Adult Education and Training Funding

The State finances, in part, various forms of continuing and adult education, such as the upper secondary schools’ evening classes, distance learning and the lifelong learning centres. Grants are made from the state-financed Vocational Education Fund for continuing vocational training in business and industry. The State also allocates funds for continuing education for civil servants, e.g. for in-service training of upper secondary school teachers.

Fees Paid by Learners

Funds for adult education programs and distance learning in upper secondary schools are determined by Parliament in the annual State budget. For these programmes, the State pays two thirds of the cost of tuition, while students normally pay one third or less, depending on their age and situation.

The running costs of operating lifelong learning centres are provided for by allocations in the annual State budget. Participants at courses run by the Institute of Continuing Education at the University of Iceland pay tuition fees that vary according to the length and the scope of the courses for which they enrol.  Municipal-run schools receive financial support from the local community in question but must rely on tuition fees to make up for the rest of their costs.

Through the Education Fund, the State also co-finances courses for the unemployed and for vocational training in business and industry.

Non-vocational non-formal adult education courses are generally paid for by participants, often co-funded by the individual’s employment unions.

Financial Support for Adult Learners

In many cases, collective agreements contain provisions that guarantee employees and civil servants the right to continuing education. The agreements also stipulate access to funds for continuing education. These funds or grants are non-refundable. Provisions may also in some cases guarantee travel and maintenance costs.

Unions, companies, institutions or organisations often pay tuition fees for individuals participating in adult education courses. This may include non-vocational non-formal adult education courses. Tuition fees may also be financed partly or fully by the State, as is the case with courses in Icelandic for immigrants, courses for the unemployed, and some courses for business and industry. Increasingly, professions and unions have training funds at their disposal. As a rule, the employer pays a certain proportion of employees’ wages into these funds.

An individual job-seeking programme for the unemployed includes training and education free of charge. The financing of the programme is provided for in the State budget and by the income of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. 

Student loans are not common in continuing education. Grants may be available from some unions’ funds, such as teachers’ association funds. Tax relief to cover part of the cost of adult education does not exist, except in the case of special continuing education grants or allowances from unions, institutions, etc.

Private Education Funding

Various private institutions, companies and organisations provide continuing education and training. Most of them are fully private, but some of them can apply on a yearly basis for grants for some of their courses from public funds, such as the Vocational Education Fund. In that sense, these courses are partially grant-aided. Examples of private continuing education are language schools, schools offering ICT courses, workplace courses, hobby-related courses and the Mímir Centre for Adult Education. Special funding is also available for teaching adult immigrant Icelandic as a second language.

A grant-aided institution, the Education and Training Service Centre, is operated for young people aged 16 to 24, who have dropped out of education and not found a place for themselves on the labour market. The objective is to provide a range of training and education for the young people who work there, for which they are paid a salary equivalent to unemployment benefits.

The Education and Training Service Centre, established by the Icelandic Federation of Labour and the Confederation of Icelandic Employers, is a grant-aided institution which operates in accordance with a service agreement with the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. The role of the Centre is to be a collaborative forum of the founding parties for adult education and vocational training in co-operation with other educational bodies operating under the auspices of the member associations, the Icelandic Federation of Labour and the Confederation of Icelandic Employers. The Centre targets those who have not completed the upper secondary level of education.