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Information on TVET in Iceland

Basic setup of the education system

(Taken from CEDEFOP 2009, Dóra Stefánsdóttir, Vocational education and training in Iceland. Short description. See References)

The educational system in Iceland is divided into four levels:

Pre-school education (leikskóli)

Pre-schools are defined by law as the first level of the educational system, providing education for children who have not reached six years of age, at which point compulsory education begins.

Compulsory education (grunnskóli)

Compulsory education is organised in a single structure system, i.e. primary and lower secondary education form a part of the same school level, and generally take place in the same school. The law concerning compulsory education stipulates that education shall be mandatory for children and adolescents between the ages of six and sixteen.

Upper secondary education (framhaldsskóli)

Upper secondary education is not compulsory, but anyone who has completed compulsory education has the right to enter a course of studies in an upper secondary school. Students are usually 16-20 years of age. General academic education is primarily organised as a four-year course leading to a matriculation examination. The length of the courses in vocational education varies, lasting from one semester to ten, but most prevalent are four-year courses.

The Higher Educational System in Iceland

The modern Icelandic system of higher education dates back to the foundation of the University of Iceland in 1911. The legal framework covering higher education in Iceland is the Higher Education Institution Act no. 63/2006. This act applies to educational institutions providing higher education leading to a degree and which have been accredited by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. The ministry has also issued National Qualification Framework for Iceland no. 80/2007, a systematic description of the structure of education and degrees at higher education that is specifically based on learning outcomes. All accredited higher education institutes in Iceland shall follow this framework.

There are currently seven higher education institutions in Iceland that fall under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture and the Higher Education Institution Act no. 63/2006.

University of Iceland and the University of Akureyri are public universities that fall under the Act on Public Higher Education Institutions no. 85/2008. The Agricultural University of Iceland and Holar University College are public universities that were formerly under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture. Reykjavik University, Bifröst University and Iceland Academy of the Arts are private institutions that receive state funding and operate under structural charters approved by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. The ministry concludes performance-related contracts with all higher education institutions under its administration

Vocational education

Vocational education is offered in comprehensive schools, industrial-vocational schools and specialised vocational schools. The length of the courses these schools offer varies but the most prevalent are four-year courses. Many forms of vocational training give the students legal certification for certain types of employment. This applies, for example, to studies in the skilled trades. Within vocational education, students can choose between training for a skilled trade or vocational training in other areas, for example, in the field of fisheries, the travel industry or health and commerce. Training for a skilled trade takes three to four years. It is comprised of a vocational programme of study at an upper secondary school and a study contract with a master craftsman or an industrial firm. On completion of studies, the apprentice takes a journeyman’s examination that provides the qualifications required to pursue the trade concerned. An apprentice who has completed the journeyman’s examination can become a master craftsman after a certain period of work experience and advanced studies at a vocational school. A master craftsman has the right to supervise work in his field. Students in vocational programmes have the possibility of doing additional studies in preparation for study at the higher education level and complete the matriculation examination.

Handicapped students are to be provided with instruction and training according to their needs and to be given special support in their studies. Where possible, they are to be integrated into mainstream education and do, for the most part, attend a regular class and follow the same subjects as other students, but with special assistance. The law concerning upper secondary schools contains provisions in respect to special teaching in Icelandic for those students whose first language is not Icelandic. It also provides for special instruction in Icelandic for Icelandic students who have lived abroad for long periods of time and for deaf students.


Most information above is taken from the website of the Ministry of Education Iceland:

For further information see Vocational education and training in Iceland

CEDEFOP, 2009, pdf

Further Documents

Country Report Iceland, part of the CEDEFOP publication project "VET in Europe - Country reports"

UNEVOC Centre(s)


page date 2010-07-26

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