Coastal Communities and Regional Development (CRD) is an international, multidisciplinary master’s program addressing the opportunities and challenges of coastal communities along the North Atlantic, North Pacific and the Arctic, although theoretical foundations and best practice examples from other regions will also be presented.

The program is especially built on the principles and practices of social sciences and humanities, including geography, planning, sociology and economics. Local actions and global impacts as well as tools and policies for just and sustainable futures of coastal areas will be analyzed, both in theory and practice.

By the end of the program students will have acquired necessary competences and skills for handling current and future changes, challenges and transformation processes in coastal communities and regions.

In a nutshell

The program consists of 120 ECTS at the master’s level; this includes 75 ECTS in the form of courses and 45 ECTS in the form of a thesis. All courses are taught as intensive modules from August through June of the next year. Courses range from 1 ECTS to 6 ECTS and one to three weeks in length. Each ECTS is expected to involve approximately 25-30 hours of student work. The language of teaching and general communication is English. Teaching takes place in Ísafjörður.


The first year is made up of mandatory and elective courses from the teaching schedule. After the courses finishin June, the students’ attention moves to the 45 ECTS thesis. Students are free to choose their thesis topic and location. Theses are submitted for marking and defense in the spring semester the next year.

While the program covers a wide arc of geographical and development related areas, students can specialise within this sphere through elective courses and with their choice of a topic for their thesis. Students are welcome to take elective courses at other universities, with the Master’s program committee's approval.

Students at the University Centre of the Westfjords are formally enrolled at the University of Akureyri and graduate with an MA (Master of Arts) degree from the University of Akureyri. Studies however are entirely conducted at the University Centre of the Westfjords in Ísafjörður and are wholly supervised by the University Centre of the Westfjords

Academic Director

Dr. Matthias Kokorsch is the director of the masters' program in Coastal Communities and Regional Development. He holds a PhD from the University of Iceland in Geography, and a state examination for teaching in Geography, Social Sciences and Pedagogy from the University of Duisburg and Essen. His PhD dissertation was entitled “Mapping Resilience – Coastal Communities in Iceland” (Seigla íslenskra sjávarbyggða). Matthias Kokorsch's research interests include community resilience, regional development, particularly in sparsely populated regions, structural changes of old-industrial areas, and resource management in combination with aspects of justice and decision-making processes. Matthias Kokorsch has been involved in several research projects on regional and community development. Currently he works in the international program ClicNord which addresses aspects of place-attachment in small and remote communities in times of climate change related natural hazards. Another research project focuses on the role of innovation in rural communities. Prior to his job as program director, Matthias Kokorsch worked as scientist for the Thünen-Institute of Rural Studies in Germany and taught at the University of Hanover.

The Program Director in Coastal Communities and Regional Development has the following roles:

  • Professional oversight over the master’s program, administration and co-ordination of the curriculum
  • Contact between the Master's program committee, University Centre staff, teachers and students in Coastal Communities and Regional Development
  • Recommend new teachers, instructors, and thesis advisors to the master’s committee
  • Facilitate cooperation, foster a network around the program and be of an assistance to teachers if needed
  • Answer or correctly forward all questions relating to professional aspects of the master’s program
  • Keep track of students’ academic progress, both in courses and when working on their theses
  • Take responsibility for thesis assessments, including presentations (lectures) and defenses
    Master´s Thesis

Students are required to do independent research and write a 45 ECTS credits master thesis. This takes place in the second year.

Finding a topic
Developing the thesis, as well as finding an advisor, is done in close cooperation with the program directors. Students do not need to have their thesis topic ready before they start the program. Most of the core courses are taught during the autumn semester, this is a perfect time to get an inspiration for a thesis topic. Students have access to instructors, both in class and during office hours, to discuss opportunities.

Developing a thesis
The development of the thesis begins formally in the beginning of the spring semester with the Proposal Writing Workshop which is mandatory for all students. This is a two credit course taught throughout the semester where students learn about research design and academic writing. During the (mandatory) course Applied Methodology students explore suitable methods for the thesis topic and future research activities.

Finding an advisor
Students at UW have great freedom to pick topics and advisors for their thesis project or in cooperation with the program director. The advisor can be an instructor from the program, but can also come from other universities or research institutions or the working world across the globe. Please note that the thesis advisor needs to be approved by the master's program committee.

Writing the thesis: You can choose, Ísafjörður, Iceland or anywhere in the world!
Students have the freedom to choose a topic anywhere in the world. A growing number of second year students, up to 50%, decide to stay here in the Westfjords while writing their thesis. For those who want to write about the Westfjords, UW assists connecting students to institutions and companies in the region.

    Entry Requirements

In order to be eligible for admission to UW, you must:

  • have been awarded a Bachelor's degree (or equivalent) with first grade from an internationally recognised university.
  • be able to demonstrate proficiency in written and spoken English by means of an internationally recognised test, e.g. TOEFL, IELTS or the equivalent. It is anticipated that applicants from Iceland, Scandinavia and the English-speaking countries possess adequate skills in the language.

If you do not (yet) meet the admission requirements, you can still apply. Small deficiencies in meeting our requirements or the lack of documents will not prevent your application from being reviewed. If graduation is pending please provide a progress transcript and the intended date of graduation. UW may offer a place on a conditional basis. The conditions will be specified in the letter offering you a place. You will have to meet those conditions before you can be admitted.

Applying for a single course
We also invite you to take single masters' courses as a guest student at UW. Under admission you find further information about guest studies at UW.  

Life in Ísafjörður

Ísafjörður is the capital of the Westfjords situated in the remote north western part of Iceland. It is a vibrant and beautiful town with a strong cultural life, including a well known music scene, art and sports. Ísafjörður is the largest community of the Westfjords with some 2500 inhabitants. The Westfjords' total population is around 7.000 people. Unique countryside surrounds the town and it is a stone's throw from the untouched natural beauty of places like Hornstrandir and Jökulfirðir.
There are good communications and transport between Ísafjörður and the capital region of Reykjavík: it is a 6-7 hour drive to the capital along paved roads and flying takes just 40 minutes, with generally two flights to and from Ísafjörður each day.

Read more about the community 

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