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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisation of private education


2.Organisation and governance

2.4Organisation of private education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Organization of Private Education

Local municipalities may enter a contractual agreement with private non-profit entities to operate a pre-primary day-care centre. All the private pre-primary schools get the same financial support from their local municipality, and therefore the private sector of the pre-primary level could be described as grant-aided private sector. Local authorities make an agreement with the pre-primary school in question regarding the fee collection. The operational forms involved vary from one private pre-primary school to another. For example, there are parent-operated pre-primary schools where a special association is formed to carry out the operation of the school, and there are organizations that manage and direct pre-primary schools. There are no differences in the provision of private education or in the legislative framework compared to the public sector. The municipalities and Ministry of Education, Science and Culture are to monitor and evaluate private schools in the same way as local schools.

Compulsory Level 

Based on a legislation from 2008 (Act 91/2008) with amendments from 2016 (Act 76/2016), the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, may provide accreditation to compulsory schools which are run by parties other than the municipalities, as non-profit organisations, as limited companies or as other recognised legal forms, given the consent of the municipality regarding the establishment of the school. The consent of the municipality may be subject to having a certain maximum number of pupils. The same law and regulations apply to these compulsory schools as to compulsory schools operated by the municipalities. Teaching in private schools follows the National Curriculum Guide which is in effect for compulsory schools and pupils take the same nationally coordinated examinations in Grades 4,7 and 9. 

Compulsory schools that are accredited are entitled to receive contributions from municipal funds for pupils who are residents in the municipality in which the school operates. This contribution is to account for at least 75% of the estimated average total operational cost for each pupil. Regulation 699/2012 spells out the framework of schools operated by parties other than municipalities, including schools run under a foreign or an international curriculum. Only one school in Iceland falls under this provision; the International School in the municipality Garðabær.

Upper Secondary Education 

Compliant with the Upper Secondary School Act of 2008, the Minister of Education, Science and Culture can provide schools, other than public upper secondary schools, with accreditation to carry out instruction at upper secondary level subject to certain conditions. Accreditation of an upper secondary school provides a confirmation that at the time at which accreditation is granted, the activities of the school comply with general conditions of the framework legislation for this school level.  These schools operate in accordance with the same legislation as the public schools and are subject to the same supervision. All grant-aided upper secondary schools receive public funding as determined in the State budget. 

Accreditation of an upper secondary school provides a confirmation that the activities of the respective school complies with general conditions of the Upper Secondary School Act of 2008 and regulations concerned. A school that has received accreditation is autonomous regarding operations and activities, apart from the conditions stipulated in the framework legislation. An accreditation does neither incur a commitment on behalf of the authorities for financial contribution out of the national budget to the corresponding upper secondary school, nor any responsibilities for the school’s commitments.  If a school that has been accredited fails to meet the conditions of the Upper Secondary School Act of 2008, as well as applied legislation and rules (including regulation 426/2010), the Minister of Education, Science and Culture can revoke its accreditation. 

Higher Education Institutions

Government-dependent private higher education institutions in Iceland receive considerable financial assistance from the State under service contracts made with each institution. The institutions are subject to the provisions of the Higher Education Institutions Act of 2006. The institutions have private boards and they have a significant degree of autonomy and can, for example, decide such matters as admission requirements, progression of students from one year to the next, certification etc. These matters do not differ much between public and private institutions. The tuition fees for private institutions vary between higher education institutions and fields of study.

Private institutions are recognized by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture and are subject to the same provisions as public institutions regarding external reviews and quality control. 

The Higher Education Institutions Act provides for internal financial and managerial autonomy of the institutions. Their formal relationship with the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture is further defined in performance-related agreements with public institutions and service contracts with private institutions. The private institutions receive more than 50% from core funding for teaching and facilities from the central government, according to the same funding formula as the public institutions. In addition, they charge students tuition fees, whereas the public institutions do not have the legal authority to do so.