Statistics Iceland publishes for the first time information about graduations by students’ origin. The data indicate that there are differences in the graduation rate depending on students’ background. When examining all graduates at the upper secondary level in 2016-2017, as a share of the population aged 18-22, then almost 24% of the population with Icelandic background graduated this year. On the other hand 16.5% of those born abroad with one parent born abroad graduated this year, and just over 8% of immigrants.

Immigrants are those who were born abroad and have both parents of foreign origin. Exchange students, who stay in Iceland for a semester or two are included in the data for immigrants. Second generation immigrants are those who were born in Iceland of two immigrant parents. There were 19 second generation immigrants among graduates in 2016-2017, so each one weighs heavily in the data shown in figure 1.


Fewer graduates than in the previous year
There were 10,235 graduates from schools in Iceland in 2016-2017 at the upper secondary and tertiary levels of education. In total, the number of graduates decreased by 617 (-5.7%) from the previous year. A part of the explanation for the decrease is that due to changes in the reading plan at the upper secondary level there were few graduates with a two year certificate in business in the spring of 2016, but in recent years 2-300 students have graduated with this diploma each year. A total of 5,098 students graduated with 5,630 graduations from the upper secondary level of education during the school year 2016-2017, 645 fewer than in the previous year (-11.2%). Females were slightly more numerous than males, 51.2% of graduates.

More students completed the matriculation examination before the age of 20
There were 3,180 graduates from 34 schools with a matriculation exam during the 2016-2017 school year, 269 fewer than in the previous year. Women were 58.8% of those completing the matriculation exam. The ratio of students graduating with the matriculation exam to 20 year olds in the population was 69.8%. This is the first year since 2010-2011 that the ratio drops below 70%. A total of 24.6% of graduates with a matriculation exam were 19 years old or younger, but 44.0% were 20 years old. The proportion of graduates under the age of 20 has been increasing since 2005-2006, with the exception of 2012-2013. In 2013-2014, 17.8% of graduates with the matriculation exam were 19 years or younger and 44.4% were 20 years old. Changes in the requirements which shorten the time needed to complete this examination have only been partially implemented in the years covered by this data collection. Age is computed at the end of the year after graduation.

Fewer graduates with the journeyman’s exam and masters of a certified trade
In 2016-2017 there were 624 graduations with the journeyman’s exam, seven fewer than in the previous year. Graduated masters of a certified trade were 154, slightly fewer than in the previous school year. Males were more than three out of every four (77.2%) of those completing the journeyman’s exam, and four out of five graduated certified trade masters (79,2%).

Fewer graduates from university education
There were 4,479 graduates with 4,498 graduations at the tertiary level of education, 2.3% fewer than in the previous year (figure 2). Females were two out of three (66.3%) graduates. There were 2,664 graduations with a first tertiary degree and 448 graduations with a diploma after a Bachelor degree. There were 1,275 graduations with a master’s degree and 62 completed the Ph.D.


Statistics Iceland has also published new tables on graduations by line of study for all levels of education above compulsory education.

Statistics - Upper secondary schools

Statistics - Universities