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Language Policy of the University of Iceland

Policy approved by the University Forum on 26 April and the University Council on 2 November 2023.

The University of Iceland is the principal scientific and educational institution of Iceland. According to the Higher Education Institution Act, no. 63/2006, the University shall work towards the “dissemination of knowledge and skills to students as well as society in general”. Therefore, the University has a significant obligation to promote the preservation of the Icelandic language and ensure that it is usable—and used—across all academic fields. At the same time, the University is part of the international academic community and actively participates in various international collaborations in teaching, research, and administration. The University's language policy is shaped by this dual role and is intended to support both the Icelandic language and the University's international operations.

The spoken and written language of the University is Icelandic, in teaching, research, and administration. Thus, Icelandic is the default language in all University activities and is used unless specific circumstances arise. This is in accordance with the Act respecting the status of the Icelandic language and Icelandic sign language, no. 61/2011. According to this law, Icelandic sign language is the first language of those who rely on it for communication and interaction; therefore, it enjoys special rights within the University.

English also is an important language within the University due to teachers and students whose native language is not Icelandic, the training of students for participation in international academic work, and the University's participation in international collaborations. Therefore, emphasis is placed on making extensive and detailed information about the University and its activities accessible in English on the University's public website and on its internal website (Ugla). The University also encourages students and staff to use other foreign languages in their work if possible.

Implementation and Execution

  1. The use of written and spoken Icelandic within the University of Iceland shall be exemplary, both among students, staff, and faculty. Language use within the University shall be characterized by respect for individuals and groups and should not discriminate.
  2. Icelandic is the default teaching language at the University of Iceland. Teaching of foreign languages is conducted in the relevant language. Teaching in English shall be limited to
    1. programs that have a specific reason to be taught in English, primarily at the graduate level,
    2. courses taught by teachers whose native language is not Icelandic, and
    3. courses that must be taught in English due to the University's international collaborations. Required courses in undergraduate programs shall generally be taught in Icelandic, except in the teaching of foreign languages or programs taught in English.
  3. The teaching language of programs and individual courses shall always be specified in the University’s course catalogue so that it is always clear in which language teaching and course assessment will take place. Deviations from the general rule that Icelandic is the University's language shall always be made explicit in advance.
  4. Course assessment shall generally be conducted in the language(s) registered as the course language(s) in the course catalogue. If students whose native language is not Icelandic are permitted to take courses taught in Icelandic, teachers shall strive to accommodate these students without changing the teaching language.
  5. The University Writing Center shall be equipped to serve all students at the University. Teachers shall have access to advice regarding language use and other specialized guidance in presenting course materials and their research in Icelandic.
  6. Doctoral theses are generally written in English to allow for evaluation by international opponents. A doctoral thesis may be in Icelandic if circumstances permit, and qualified opponents are available.
  7. All students shall be facilitated to participate in studies and other activities in Icelandic within the University. Students whose native language is not Icelandic and who begin studies taught in Icelandic shall take a placement examination in Icelandic. These students shall have access to courses in Icelandic to help them follow teaching in Icelandic. Exchange students shall have access to courses in Icelandic and other support as available.
  8. University staff whose native language is not Icelandic shall perform their duties in Icelandic after a reasonable adaptation period. In the case of permanent appointments of academic staff, consideration shall be given to their ability to teach and perform administrative tasks in Icelandic. The University's Language Center shall offer free Icelandic courses for staff whose native language is not Icelandic. Enough courses shall be offered to meet demand each year.
  9. All job advertisements shall refer to the language policy of the University.
  10. Staff and students whose native language is not English shall be helped to participate in the University activities in English. Courses in academic English for teachers and students shall be offered, with an emphasis on training for doctoral students. Support services in English for students provided by the University’s Writing Center shall be strengthened to make it easier for them to study and write in English.
  11. In degree programs and courses taught in English, minimum requirements for English proficiency shall be set for students. Students whose native language is not English and who apply for admission to programs taught in English shall be required to demonstrate a minimum score on a recognized international English exam or in English on the Icelandic matriculation exam. Departments should also define minimum requirements for the English proficiency of exchange students.
  12. The needs of sign language-speaking students and staff shall be met so that speakers of the Icelandic sign language can use it to the same extent as Icelandic in studies and work at the University. Sign language interpreters shall be available as needed, both in classes and other interactions between staff and students, as well as in meetings and lectures as applicable.
  13. Teachers are encouraged to communicate their knowledge in Icelandic to students and the public through books, articles, teaching materials, and other means.
  14. Teachers are encouraged to engage in the creation of terminology within their academic field and to introduce this terminology to students and the public. Individual programs and academic disciplines shall promote systematic terminology creation and glossaries in their respective fields. Teachers are encouraged to engage in the translation of academic texts, teaching materials, and literature into Icelandic.
  15. All meetings and other activities of programmes, departments, and faculties of the University of Iceland, as well as committees in the University's administration, shall be conducted in Icelandic if possible. Department heads and committee chairs shall ensure that teachers and other staff who do not understand Icelandic can follow and participate in meetings and other administrative tasks as necessary.
  16. Written documents within the University's administration, as well as public information sent out by the University or its administrative units, such as meeting notices and minutes, lecture invitations, event announcements, and so on, shall always be in Icelandic, with an English text included where applicable. However, individual meeting documents may be in a foreign language when necessary.
  17. Language technology shall be used to assist students and staff in their use of Icelandic. Students and staff should have access to language technology tools for Icelandic, such as spelling and grammar checking software, text-to-speech, speech-to-text, and translation programs. Special emphasis shall be placed on language technology tools that benefit disabled people in their studies and work at the University.
  18. The University shall emphasize Icelandic in the use of artificial intelligence software. The University should provide guidance on the responsible use of artificial intelligence at the University and monitor its development and impact on Icelandic in all University activities.
  19. The University's digital environment shall be in Icelandic unless it is deemed impossible. The default user interfaces of all software commonly used by staff and students within the University should be in Icelandic. The University's Division of Information Technology shall promote Icelandic translations of the software it distributes within the University. Teachers and students are encouraged to participate in the translation of open-source software.
  20. The rector of the University appoints the University’s language policy committee, which is composed of representatives from all faculties, the central administration, and students. The committee shall advise the University's administrators and other staff on issues concerning the Icelandic language, make proposals for the implementation of the University’s language policy, monitor its implementation, and promote the policy and revise it as needed.

Supervision and Responsibility

A more detailed implementation and execution of the University of Iceland's language policy are entrusted to the University's central administration and individual academic faculties, departments, and institutions as appropriate.

The Rector of the University is responsible for the policy and may authorize temporary deviations from its individual provisions if necessary.