- So said Jón Atli Benediktsson, Rector of UI, at the graduation ceremony in the University Cinema today
- A record number of people graduated from UI: a total of 505 from all schools
Jón Atli Benediktsson, Rector of the University of Iceland, discussed the urgent problem of funding in the higher education sector in his speech today at the graduation ceremony for 505 candidates, a record number for a February graduation at UI. With financial and operational difficulties on the horizon for UI and other Icelandic universities, the Rector stressed that Icelandic universities must be on an equal footing to other Nordic universities. This is vital for the Icelandic nation if we are to remain competitive on the international stage.
"It has always been a priority for the University of Iceland that we remain a university for the entire nation. Again and again, polls show that the University enjoys high levels of public trust in Iceland. And the public demands that we remain a comprehensive university that is open to everyone. The government must enable us to meet those expectations. It is absolutely vital that the University of Iceland should receive a comparable level of funding to other Nordic research universities. But we are sadly a long way from making that a reality," said the Rector. A Gallup poll, published yesterday, revealed that UI was among the top three most trusted institutions in Iceland.
Jón Atli also stressed how important it was for the University of Iceland to develop partnerships with other Icelandic universities and companies and indeed all areas of Icelandic society. He welcomes the fact that the government plans to further strengthen domestic collaboration.
"But international collaboration is no less important," he said. "Our international partnerships bear new fruit almost every week, whether we look at the number of international students applying to UI, the increasing number of international scientific conferences held in Iceland, or research collaborations that are awarded large grants from international funds. For example, the University of Iceland won over 60 grants from Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation funding programme, earning almost ISK 4 billion in funding for UI scientists. That is a performance that far exceeded any other institution or company here in Iceland."
Jón Atli also mentioned Aurora, the international network of European universities led by the University of Iceland. Aurora aims to strengthen basic research, social responsibility, equality, entrepreneurship and active engagement of students in all subjects. "Science is a force that unites people across national borders. But it is also the driving force of innovation that has an ever increasing impact on all our lives. In 2020, Aurora was awarded a major three-year grant from the European Union and in a recent statement, the EU Commission said that the alliance had achieved remarkable progress and could be a model for future alliances."
The University campus has undergone major changes over the years and the Rector mentioned how international the student population has become. He referred to the University Centre, Veröld and Gróska, buildings which have transformed the campus in just a few years, promising to strengthen the entire University community. The Rector also mentioned the Icelandic Studies Building due to open this spring, the new School of Health Sciences building on Hringbraut and finally Saga, which will shortly be home to the School of Education.
To conclude his speech, Jón Atli exhorted the new University of Iceland graduates to use their education and knowledge not only for their own benefit, but for the good of society as a whole.
"What is important to you? What kind of changes bring out the best in you? What kind of future do you see for yourselves? You are the driving force of change. Never forget that. The future belongs to you. And that future is bright."