Centre of regional studies emerging at the University Centre of the Westfjords

Byggðastofnun staff visiting the University Centre's new dormitory. From right: Arnar Már Elíasson C…
Byggðastofnun staff visiting the University Centre's new dormitory. From right: Arnar Már Elíasson CEO, Hrund Pétursdóttir director of lending division, Sigríður Elín Þórðardóttir Director of development division. Together with them on the picture are Ester Sturludóttir from the Stúdentagarðar secretariat, Sigríður Ólöf Kristjánsdóttir, Westfjords Regional Development Agency and member of the board of Stúdentagarðar/dormitory, and Peter Weiss director of the University Centre of the Westfjords.

On Thursday morning staff of Icelandic Regional Development Institute (Byggðastofnun) had a look on University Centre of the Westfjords' recently inaugurated new student dormitory. Although Byggðastofnun had not been involved in financing this development, visiting staff showed it a lot of interest, as this is indeed one way to foster regional development.

According to UW director Peter Weiss, it has been, not least when the Master's programme in Regional Development was added and the number of students doubled, that UW needed to consider student housing issues. At the same time, the Regional Development Programme is UW‘s way to become the centre of regional studies in Iceland, and, UW director emphasized, as the Icelandic Regional Development Institute (Byggðastofnun) itself, this centre of regional studies is one time for all not located in the capital area.

On the occasion of Icelandic Regional Development Institute‘s annual assembly, six research grants have been awarded, of which three went to recent or former instructors at the University Centre of the Westfjords: Þóroddur Bjarnason (University of Iceland/University of Akureyri), Ari Klængur Jónsson (University of Iceland) and Jóhanna Gísladóttir {Agricultural University of Iceland). Moreover, one of the former instructors at UW, Ásdís Hlökk Theodorsdóttir, who had been awarded one of Byggðastofnun-awards last year, presented her work in progress on Icelandic municipalities' capacity/capability in town planning issues. While UW hires all its instructors on a short term basis, it builds up a huge network which was reflected on this annual assembly of the Regional Development Institute.

Another presenter on the annual assembly, Sigríður Lára Gunnlaugsdóttir, presented her master's thesis at University of Akureyri, which had been awarded a grant by Byggðastofnun in 2022. Sigríður Lára had taken single courses at the University Centre of the Westfjords as a part of her master's studies at University of Akureyri, and it was here she got the inspiration for her master's thesis on healthcare staff's experience of lethal natural hazards, like the avalanche in Súðavík.

Coastal Communities and Regional Development students' theses which have been awarded thesis grants by Byggðastofnun are not even counted in here, but in a conversation amongst staff of Byggðastofnun it was estimated that they had been almost one third of all grants awarded. With all these instructors, students and researchers, who, in the one way or the other are connected to UW, it is indeed justified to say that the University Centre of the Westfjords is on the way to become Iceland's Centre of Regional Studies , even though UW's many instructors on short term contract are indeed hired at other institutions.