Valmynd Leit

Polar Law and West Nordic Studies

The programme is taught entirely in English

Applications for Master's programmes in Polar Law will be open in February 2021 for a Fall 2021 start.

Study lines in Polar Law

In 2019, the University of Akureyri will offer students the LLM and MA programmes in Polar Law (with or without the West Nordic Studies option) as well as a 60 ECTS programme at Master's level leading to a Graduate Diploma.

International cooperation

The Polar Law Programmes are incorporated within the International West Nordic Studies Masters programme. This is a cooperative programme with the University of the Faroe Islands, the University of Greenland, Nord University in Bodø, Norway and the University of Iceland. Students spend one of four semesters on exchange at one of the partner universities. Grants are available to partially defer the costs of the exchanges.
In addition to these partner institutes, The Polar Law programme at the University of Akureyri involves experts from the University of Lapland, the University of Tilburg, the University of Tromsø, the University of Tasmania, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, the Arctic Council and the Stefansson Arctic Institute.

Programme costs

There are no tuition fees as such but students pay an annual registration fee which is currently 75,000 ISK (approximately 650 Euros) to cover administrative costs. Non-EEA/EU citizens must also apply for a residence permit directly to the Directorate of Immigration before the deadline 1st of June. There is no scholarship available through the university. Further information on cost of living can be found here

What is Polar law?

Polar law describes the legal regimes applicable to the Arctic and the Antarctic. It is interdisciplinary, placing emphasis on relevant areas of public international law and social sciences. Subject areas include: environmental law; the law of the sea; sovereignty issues and boundary disputes on land and sea; natural resources governance; the rights of indigenous peoples in the North; self-government and good governance; economic development; Arctic security and Arctic strategies; and land and resource claims in Polar regions.

The Polar Law Master's programmes

The Master's programmes are developed and delivered as interest in the Arctic and the Antarctic are at a high. Climate changes are having a dramatic effect on the Arctic and Antarctic and multiple threats to the environment are sending serious danger-signals and calling for urgent measures; speculation is high regarding new shipping routes and natural resources; the Arctic Council is creating innovative modes of regional governance; Arctic States map and stake their entitlements to the Arctic Ocean floor; nations inside and outside of the Poles work together to manage fisheries; ethical, legal and sociological debates arise around the consumption of marine mammals; questions of national and local governance are moving forward on national and international agendas; indigenous peoples are claiming their rights to manage their own communities, lands and resources; and Arctic inhabitants pursue economic development.

Every effort is made to ensure that all courses in this programme are gender-sensitive.

Students who have not yet completed an introductory course in public international law do so during their first semester of study.
Courses are taught by Guðmundur Alfreðsson, Tom Barry, Giorgio Baruchello, Kees Bastmeijer, Erik Franckx, Soffía Guðmundsdóttir, Lassi Heininen, Jón Haukur Ingimundarson, Julia Jabour, Rachael Lorna Johnstone, Joan Larsen, Anita Parlow, Jessica Shadian, Peter Ørebech, and other leading academics and practitioners in the field of Polar law.

The Faculty recognises the diversity of backgrounds of the Polar Law students and is keen to offer a flexible study environment in which students can make the most of their study opportunity at the University of Akureyri. For that reason, a student may be exempted from otherwise mandatory courses if s/he can demonstrate that s/he has satisfactory competence from previous study or occupation or will obtain such competence during the study period in an alternative course. Where an exemption is granted, the student should seek an alternative course or courses with relevance to Polar Law, either within the University of Akureyri or from another university, and ensure that s/he at all times has adequate academic credits to fulfil the obligations of the study line. All such requests must be sent to the Curriculum and Credit-transfer Committee which will assess each on its merits, taking particular account of the stated learning outcomes for the Polar Law study line in question and the skills and competences demonstrable by the applicant or to be acquired in an alternative course (e.g. from a previous academic transcript or a current course description). In no case may the Curriculum and Credit-transfer Committee endorse such a change if the result would be that any learning outcome for the study line would not be achieved.

On completion of studies

Studies in Polar Law prepare students for work in the public and private sectors, with different levels of government, with international organisations, the NGO sector, with indigenous peoples in the Arctic, and with universities and research institutions. The Master’s programmes (LLM and MA) also constitute good preparation for doctoral studies or further research on Polar issues.

For further information please contact:

Rachael Lorna Johnstone, Head of the Polar Law programmes:

Sune Tamm


„I can‘t tell you how wonderful it is to have a year and a half of UNAK‘s Polar Law program. The doors I was hoping to open, and the knowledge I wanted to obtain have all been surpassed. I‘m having a lovely time in Antarctica finding fossil fish from a camp in the Trans-Antarctic Mountains.“

Sune Tamm,
Polar Law

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University of Akureyri

Nordurslod 2         600 Akureyri, Iceland         S. + 354 460 8000 

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