Considered to be one of the most developed countries, Iceland offers diverse programmes in undergraduate and graduate studies.

We may question the rationale of a student from India, a country with a population of more than a billion, moving for higher education to Iceland, a country with a little over three lakh of people. After all, this European island is just a speck with an area of 103,000 sq. km. in the North Atlantic Ocean, just below the Arctic Circle. The name Iceland brings to our mind a picture of a landmass covered with ice.

But we should remember that in 2007, it was ranked as the most developed country in the world by the United Nations' Human Development Index. In 2009 its rank fell to three, with India ranking at 134 in the table.

Iceland is one of the richest countries in the world, based on GDP and per capita income. It is considered to be one of the finest countries to live in. (Capital: Reykjavik; currency: Icelandic krona (ISK), approximately equal to 2. 6 Indian rupees.)

At present there are nearly 18,000 students enrolled in the higher education institutions in Iceland, of which 5 per cent are international students. There are several university level institutions. Some of the important ones are indicated below.

University of Iceland: Established in 1911. The university has five academic schools, and 25 departments. It offers diverse programmes in different disciplines in undergraduate and graduate studies at different levels.

Further, it is an internationally renowned research university, with forty research institutes that collaborate actively with universities and institutions abroad. (Sudurgata, IS-101 Reykjavík, Iceland. Web: www.hi.is; e-mail: haskoli-islands@hi.is; Ph: +354-525-4000.; Fax: +354-525-4723)

Reykjavik University: It is the second largest university in Iceland with over 3,000 students. It operates 19 research institutes and five academic departments—School of Business, School of Health and Education, School of Science and Engineering, School of Computer Science and School of Law.

It is growing rapidly as an international teaching and research university, on a par with the world's best universities. The business school is noted for its quality. All classes in the MBA programme are conducted in English. (Ofanleiti 2, IS-103 Reykjavík, Iceland. Web: www.ru.is; e-mail: ru@ru.is; Ph: +354- 510-6200; Fax: +354-510-6201)

University of Akureyri: There are three departments—Faculty of Business and Science, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and Faculty of Health Sciences. There are bilateral agreements with schools in other countries. A number of courses are taught in English. (Sólborg, P.O. Box 224, IS-602 Akureyri: Web: www.unak.is;e-mail: international@unak.is; Ph: +354-463-0900. Fax: +354-463-0999)

Bifröst University: A private, self-governing, non-profit institution. There are three departments—business, law, philosophy, and social sciences (IS-311 Borgarnes Web: www.bifrost.is; e-mail: bifrost@bifrost.is: Ph: +354-435-0000, Fax: +354-435-0020)

Agricultural University of Iceland: An educational and research institution in the field of agriculture and environmental sciences. There are three departments—the Faculty of Land and Animal Resources, Faculty of Environmental Sciences and Faculty of Vocational and Continuing Education. It provides B.Sc., M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees as well as vocational and continuing education.

Research and graduate studies focus on environmental fields, such as desertification, ecosystem restoration, afforestation and carbon sequestration. These are designed as international programmes. (IS-311 Borgarnes, Iceland Web: www.lbhi.is; e-mail: lbhi@lbhi.is; Ph: +354-437-0000, Fax: +354-437-0048)

Other institutions

The following are some of the institutions of higher education:

Hólar University College: A scientific educational and research institution. Can specialise in aquaculture and fish biology, equine science (horse breeding, horse training, horsemanship), and rural tourism. (Hólar Hjaltadal, IS-551 Sauðárkrókur, Iceland; e-mail: holaskoli@holar.is; Ph: 354-4556300, Fax: 354-4556301)

Iceland Academy of the Arts: A self-governing institution providing higher education in fine arts, theatre, music, design, architecture, and art education. Web site: http://english.lhi.is. Contact addresses:

Department of Design and Architecture, Academic Office, Skipholt 1, 105 Reykjavík

Department of Theatre, Academic Office, Sölvhólsgata 13, 101 Reykjavík

Department of Music, Academic Office, Sölvhólsgata 13, 101 Reykjavík

Department of Fine Arts, Academic Office, Laugarnesvegur 91, 105 Reykjavík

School for Renewable Energy Science: Offers a research oriented one-year M.Sc. programme in renewable energy (School for Renewable Energy Science, Solborg v/Nordurslod, IS600 Akureyri, Iceland: Ph: +354 464 0100; Fax: +354 464 0109; e-mail: res@res.is; Web: www.res.is)

Help for foreigners

The University of Iceland runs the Office of International Education, which apart from being the International Office of the University of Iceland, is a service organisation for all higher education institutions in Iceland. It provides information on all the higher education institutions in the country. (Neshagi 16, 107 Reykjavik, Iceland; Ph: +354 525 4311, fax: +354 585 5850 - e-mail: ask@hi.is)

International students can attend Icelandic higher education institutions as regular or exchange students. For exchange options, you may consult the international office of the university you have in mind. In most institutions of higher education, the academic year lasts from September to May and is divided into two semesters, fall and spring. Generally, the fall semester is from September to December and the spring semester from January to May. You can take up undergraduate degree studies after the 12{+t}{+h} standard, and postgraduate studies after the Bachelor's degree. For details of application procedure, you may contact the universities directly.

Though Icelandic is the principal language of instruction in higher education, most institutions offer individual courses in English. In some cases, whole programmes are taught entirely in English. You should get this point on medium of instruction clarified before opting for a programme in Iceland.

You need a residence permit if you plan to stay longer than three months in Iceland. For details of application for the residence permit, you may contact the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration, Skógarhlíð 6, 105 Reykjavik , Ph: +354 510 5400.

Web : www.utl.is. You need to get an Icelandic Identification Number upon arrival in Iceland. The ID number is necessary to register for courses, have a scholarship paid, open up a bank account and get a tax card.

The web site www.studentamidlun.is provides useful information on availability of accommodation for students and work permits.