The rector of the University of Iceland spoke about the importance of friendship and education when close to two thousand candidates received their diplomas for all university faculties earlier today. "Knowledge is the foundation for a thriving society and the University of Iceland is training for future industry," said rector in his address to the candidates. "Studies show that a university degree is one of the best investments an individual can make. Its value is manifested in overall more job satisfaction, better health, more happiness and furthermore candidates are more likely to be come active citizens in a democratic society," said Jón Atli Benediktsson.
Rector said that even though education is extremely important in life that the friendships and social network created in university are no less important to the individual and for society. "No man is an island, no man stands alone. When I help my brother, then I know that I plant the seed of friendshipthat will never die," said the University rector quoting the American singer Joan Baez, who wrote about the importance of friendship and solidarity. "The tens of thousands of university students that have graduated from the University of Iceland create a dynamic and growing network of contacts that has given birth to countless new ideas, growth companies and co-operative ventures in all fields of Icelandic society and elsewhere."
Jón Atli said that the University of Iceland is planning to mobilize its connections to its alumni, or as we call it, friends of the university. "We want to cultivate further the relationship with the friends of the university to strengthen the solidarity even further."
Jón Atli added that young people today face incredible technological changes and complicated challenges that call for new and interdisciplinary solutions. "Never before has the need for people with diverse university education been more acute than today. We should bear this in mind when discussing limiting access to university education. The question whether too many individuals of each generation graduate from University is frequently asked in this context. There is, however, a compelling argument that a nation with so few inhabitants cannot afford to lose a single mind when it comes to utilising human resources. It is important that young people, men and women alike, study at universities and that the children of immigrants are not ignored when it comes to university education."
Jón Atli also discussed the results of Icelandic national teams in group sports, and compared them to the position of the University of Iceland. "To understand the meaning of joining the league of elite universities globally we can consider the Icelandic men's team in football who are currently competing in the World Cup in Russia. The amazing results of Icelandic athletes in recent years has drawn attention to Icelandic sports from all over the world." Jón Atli said that the strong position of the University of Iceland had in a similar manner drawn attention internationally, and numerous opportunities for research collaboration and student exchanges with universities all over the world opened up on an almost daily basis. Rector said that more and more international students wish to study at the University. He added that the University is popular in the field of open on-line teaching in cooperation with MIT and Harvard, and that furthermore the University has joined Aurora a network of nine prestigious European universities. "Students at the University of Iceland have increasingly received opportunities to take part of their studies at prestigious universities on both sides of the Atlantic. Students are resourceful in using the global network that the University has established." As examples Jón Atli mentioned the students who are on their way to pursue part of their studies at the elite universities Stanford, Columbia and Caltech in the United States. "This would not be possible without the reputation the University of Iceland has earned."
To conclude his speech Jón Atli talked about a new survey made by the European Union where differences between Icelandic students and their European counterparts emerge. The survey provides valuable information on the economic and social conditions of Icelandic University students. Rector pointed out that Icelandic students work more than European students. "They also seem to work harder at their studies They are also generally older, have more children and are more likely to be in a relationship. Thus it seems that Icelandic university students face the challenges of work and family life early, while their European counterparts tend to leave these for after graduation. Icelandic university students have more financial worries, and are less likely to receive public financial support in the form of loans or scholarships. One of the main conclusions we can draw form this extensive survey is that Icelandic students need more support, because it is important that they can dedicate themselves fully to their studies."