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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Mobility and internationalisation


13.Mobility and internationalisation

Last update: 27 November 2023

Mobility and Internationalisation

The general legislation for higher education institutions in Iceland entered into force in 2006. This is framework legislation for all higher education institutions. Generally, there is a governing legislation for each public institution. Prior to 2006, privately run universities and colleges were governed by their respective charters and needed a permit issued by the Minister of Education, Science and Culture but now such institutions’ operations are brought into compliance with the general legal framework of 2006, which governs all types of higher education institutions, regardless of ownership.  

No specific law has been passed regarding international co-operation in the field of education. Individual higher education institutions are free to admit foreign students who meet pre-defined criteria for admission. Similarly, Icelandic students can do parts of their studies abroad and the results are included in their final degrees.  

The legislation provides for great independence of the higher education institutions and all institutions have international co-operation high on their agenda. This means that incremental changes can be implemented at the level of institutions without having to amend the overall framework. The role of the Ministry in this context is to provide opportunities which can be utilised by the various institutions of higher education. The present legal situation described above is, of course, a synthesis of political objectives, individual experience and adaptation of good practices from abroad. Iceland has been a member of the Council of Europe since 1951, a member of the Nordic co-operative programmes since their early stages, of the OECD since 1963, of EFTA since 1972 and of the EEA Agreement since 1994.

Through the EEA agreement, Iceland participates fully in EU programmes in education, training and research. Other multilateral activities include participation in international organisations like the Nordic Council of Ministers, the Council of Europe, the OECD and UNESCO, as well as participating in the Bologna Process. Bilateral arrangements include mutual exchange of educational experience and expertise, and assistance to developing countries.

Participation in this international co-operation, along with the fact that most Icelandic experts in the field of education have acquired their second and third degrees at foreign universities, has contributed to the development of the present legal framework, the implementations and practices.  

At the tertiary level, participation in international co-operation is very common and Iceland has participated in the Bologna process from the beginning. This is reflected in the Higher Education Institutions Act of 2006.  

Schools at secondary level are encouraged to participate in common Europeans exchange programmes, both on student level and regarding the development of their curriculum.