Reflecting on 2023

A year that had mainly challenging news globally, to say the least – it's even more vital to spotlight the good news and achievements. At the University Centre, there were many moments for us that we will keep in good memories. The biggest milestone for UW was the opening of our new student housing this autumn. Witnessing its transformation from an idea to a tangible reality in just over a year was fantastic. Navigating the complexities of such an ambitious undertaking in a remote setting, with its many unpredictabilities, demanded a lot of collaboration, determination, and patience. This wasn't just a construction project; it was coastal community development in practice.

2023 set new records at UW in numerous ways. We experienced our busiest defense phase ever, with 32 students graduating. The diversity in their research topics and the global reach of their studies added an extra layer of excitement to each defense. Some master theses even secured funding, an indication of their exceptional quality. Just before Christmas, we received fantastic news: four students secured funding for their ongoing projects. Plus, our academic community had an excellent year with eleven papers published by UW faculty and/or students who turned their theses into publications.

Our presence at the Arctic Circle Assembly was exceptional as well, with eight UW instructors and numerous alumni contributing. Talking of the Arctic Circle Assembly, we are happy to be part of the Grímsson Fellowship. We welcomed the first researchers here during the past few weeks and are looking forward to the next ones to come in 2024. Our engagement in national and international collaborations continues to flourish, and we're waiting impatiently for (hopefully positive) outcomes from several ongoing project applications.

Talking of collaborations, UW was hosting the CliCNord project (Climate Change Resilience in Small Communities in the Nordic Countries) here in the Westfjords earlier this year. While exploring the case study areas, we mapped out our plans for future activities. Overall, the project saw the engagement of three students, who have made significant contributions. Two of them have already successfully defended their theses, and their manuscripts are currently under review. This year has been productive, marked by our first publication and our participation in both national and international conferences. As we enter the final months of this project, we invite you to follow our ongoing work and results at

In spring 2023 we had our first trip abroad ever, participating in an international field school. Collaborating with universities from Finland, Sweden, and the Baltic states, our students embarked on an interesting journey through Lithuania and Latvia, exploring regional and community development from different perspectives. Our students conducted their own research projects in different communities and impressed us with their ability and courage to carry out research in an unknown territory. We eagerly await the 2024 summer school here in Iceland, exploring rural areas in the Northeast and move the classroom to different communities with our students exploring different methods.

While six new teachers made their debut at UW in 2023, we welcomed some 28 familiar teachers back to Ísafjörður: a good sign of stability and an indication that our instructors enjoy teaching here. In August we welcomed the new cohort with 36 students from twelve different countries, further enriching our community. But we do not only welcome students in our master programs. We see a growing interest in the language courses offered by UW and we are very proud of being part of the initiative Gefum íslensku séns – íslenskuvænt samfélag (Give Icelandic a Chance). Congratulations to Ólafur Guðsteinn Kristjánsson, the brainchild of this important initiative, for having been awarded the European Language Label for innovative language learning projects. Finally, we are happy that our (newest) academic director, Brack Hale, celebrates his first anniversary with UW this December.

This past year at UW has been marked by a considerable number of achievements and positive developments. I probably forgot a few – but what is more important: Thanks to everyone who contributed to this exciting and successful year!


Matthias Kokorsch, academic director of the Coastal Communities and Regional Development master’s program at UW.