Skip to main content
European Commission logo


EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Conditions of service for academic staff working in higher education


9.Teachers and education staff

9.5Conditions of service for academic staff working in higher education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education 

University teachers come under the Government Employees Act of 1996. As there is no single union for teachers at the university level, teachers at each institution have their own union, each union being responsible for negotiating its own contract concerning salaries and working conditions. Conditions of service for teachers at the higher education level can vary between different educational institutions. The State Salary Commission decides the salaries of professors.

According to the Government Employees Act, there are several laws that deal in one way or another with the working conditions of state employees, for example the Maternity, Paternity Leave and Parental Leave Act, the Gender Equality Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

On this page

1 Planning policy

2 Entry to the Profession

3 Professional Status

4 Salaries

5 Working Time and Holidays

6 Promotion, Advancement

7 Retirement and Pension

Planning policy

There is no planning policy in Iceland on educational staff working in higher education.

Entry to the Profession

University teachers come under the Government Employees Act of 1996. Various provisions that affect the work of university teachers are also to be found in the laws on the individual institutions.

To be appointed as a professor, associate professor, lecturer and adjunct lecturer, a master´s degree at least or equivalent, knowledge and experience as assessed by an evaluation committee, is required. Furthermore, candidates shall have demonstrated sufficient achievement in their work to enjoy recognition in the respective field of study. 

Professional Status

At the higher education level teachers are appointed to individual institutions. The forms of appointment for legally qualified university teachers are permanent and temporary appointment.

In addition to those teachers who have a formal contract of employment, there are sessional teachers at most institutions.

The most common form of appointment for teachers at higher education level is indeterminate appointment. Temporary appointment for a teacher takes the form of a one-year contract, from 1 August 31 July. Non-qualified and sessional teachers are always given temporary appointment. A teacher who has been given a temporary appointment for two years continuously has the right to have it changed to permanent appointment with a mutual three-month notice period.


Sessional teachers, lecturers and senior lectures at state institutions at the higher education level are subject to negotiations concerning salaries and benefits between the State Negotiating Committee and the teachers' trade unions. According to a recent arrangement, professors are in a special position and are to receive a salary according to a decision made by the State Salary Commission. The salary of sessional teachers is based on the salary of lecturers and senior lecturers excluding research duties.

The salary of lecturers and senior lecturers is based on two frames. Within each frame there are six pay scales, movement between scales giving a pay increase. Lecturers and senior lecturers are placed in a salary grid according to age. Teachers can also go up by one pay group within a given frame according to certain rules that have been made in a special contract within each institution.

Working Time and Holidays

The annual work-load of higher education teachers is reckoned to be around 1,600 hours. In most higher education institutions, teaching and administrative duties of teachers can be reduced or cancelled altogether for one or two semesters at a time to make it possible for them to spend more time on their research.

Teachers at the higher education level get the same holidays as the public. The length of university teachers' annual holidays is, as a minimum, equivalent to 24 working days for those who have been employed full-time for a year. The maximum is 30 working days.

Promotion, Advancement

In most institutions at the higher education level there is a tenure-track system. A lecturer who has taught at the university for three years may apply to be promoted to the position of senior lecturer, and after five years he or she has the right to have the promotion request dealt with. A senior lecturer who has had a full-time position for five years can apply to become a professor. A three-member committee is appointed to evaluate the qualifications and the ability of the applicant.

Retirement and Pension

Pensions for higher education teachers are comparable to those of compulsory and upper secondary education teachers.