Please note that this press release was modified 19 April 2023.
The proportion of inhabitants with tertiary education aged 25 and over increased from the last census, it was 27.7% in 2011 and 34.6% in the 2021 census. The proportion of inhabitants with vocational education at the upper secondary level was 24.6% in 2011 and 22.4% in 2021 and had therefore decreased. Today, Statistics Iceland publishes results on inhabitants by educational attainment from the Icelandic census 1 January 2021. This is the third release in the thematic series of the census.
The main findings are:
- The proportion of inhabitants with tertiary education was 34.6% in the 2021 census and 27.7% in 2011.
- The proportion of the tertiary-educated population rose in almost all municipalities in the country, while the proportion of inhabitants with vocational education at the upper secondary level as the highest level of education decreased in over half of the municipalities.
- The majority of those with vocational education at the upper secondary level as their highest education attained were between the ages of 55 and 64.
- There was a large difference within the Capital region in the proportion of university graduates by minor statistical output areas, ranging from 13.2% to 65.3%.
- The number of women who had completed tertiary education was significantly higher than the number of men aged 25-64, while there were more males among 65-year-olds and older.
- Highest proportion of immigrants with tertiary education were from the United States.
This release is based on inhabitants aged 25 years and older and the highest education degree an individual had completed 1 January 2021. If an individual has completed an upper secondary education and adds a degree at the tertiary level, it is only the tertiary degree that is counted. Upper secondary education refers to both academic and vocational upper secondary education while vocational education only refers to those who have completed the highest level at the upper secondary level, e.g. in the certified trades.
The highest proportion of persons with tertiary education was in the Capital region
The population with tertiary education aged 25 and over totaled 84,770 in the 2021 census (34.6%). In comparison, a total of 56,278 (27.7%) inhabitants of that age had a tertiary education in the 2011 census. This is a 51% increase in the number of persons with tertiary education between censuses, while the overall increase in the population aged 25 and over was 20.4%.
The proportion of the population in the Capital region with tertiary education was 41% in the 2021 census, which was the part of the country with the highest proportion. The proportion in the Northeast was the second highest. The lowest proportion of persons with tertiary attainment was in the Southwest region and the Westfjords. The ratio is reversed when looking at those with basic education as the highest level of education, where the proportion was highest in the Southwest region and in the Westfjords and lowest in the Capital region and in the Northeast.
The proportion of tertiary educated increased while the proportion of those with vocational education decreased
The proportion of tertiary-educated in the 2021 census increased in almost all municipalities in the country since the 2011 census. On the other hand, the number of inhabitants with vocational education at the upper secondary level as the highest level attained, decreased in 39 out of 69 municipalities. The highest proportion of tertiary-educated in 2021 was in the municipalities Seltjarnarnesbær, Garðabær and Reykjavíkurborg. In the largest municipalities, the proportion of residents with vocational education at the upper secondary level decreased most in Garðabær, where the proportion of tertiary-educated increased most, or by 8.6 percentage points.
Men were 67% of those with vocational education
In total, 54,735 inhabitants in Iceland aged 25 and over had vocational education at the upper secondary level as the highest level of education in the 2021 census. Considerably more men than women had vocational education as their highest education. The most populous age group for both sexes with vocational education was 55-64-year-olds, or a total of 12,773 individuals. The proportion of inhabitants with vocational education was 24.6% in 2011 and 22.4% in 2021 and had therefore decreased. The increase of those with vocational education aged 25 years and older was 9.2%, less than the increase in population at this age (20.4%).
Highest proportion of tertiary educated was in the western part of Reykjavík
The highest proportion of tertiary educated in the 2021 census was in a minor statistical output area in the western part of Reykjavík (65.3%). There is a great diversity in the proportion of university graduates by area within the Capital region as can be seen when zooming into the map below. The lowest proportion of inhabitants with tertiary education in the Capital region was in an area in Breiðholt (19.0%) while the lowest proportion in the entire country was in an area in the Southwest (13.2%).
There were more women than men among tertiary educated up to the age of 65
A total of 49,058 women and 35,712 men aged 25 and over had a tertiary education in the 2021 census. The largest age group for both sexes was 35-44-year-olds, with women almost 60% of tertiary educated in this age group. There were considerably more women in all age groups with tertiary education up to the age of 65.
The number of women with a master's degree doubled since the last census
More men than women had master's and doctoral degrees in the 2011 census, while women with bachelor's degrees were significantly more numerous than men. However, in 2021 there were more women than men with master's degrees, and their number had nearly doubled since the last census. Men still had an advantage among those who had completed a doctoral degree in the 2021 census, while the number of women with a doctoral degree had increased by 94% between censuses.
Highest proportion of immigrants with tertiary education from the United States
The highest level of education among immigrants aged 25 and over in the 2021 census varied somewhat by country of birth. Of the ten most populous immigrant groups, the proportion of inhabitants with tertiary education was highest among those coming from the United States or more than 67%. Immigrants from Germany came second. The lowest percentage of immigrants with tertiary education was among immigrants from Thailand and Portugal. The highest percentage of the population with upper secondary education as the highest level of education was from Poland and Romania but lowest from Thailand and the United States.
Statistics from the census are being released in stages by theme on a monthly basis. Statistics Iceland plans to release all census data before mid-year 2023. The next release, on the labour market, will be published in February.
Statistical Series – Population and housing census 1 January 2021 (published 14 November 2022)
Earlier releases from the 2021 census:
The Icelandic population 359,122 in the 2021 census
The number of immigrants has doubled since the 2011 census