Connected with Bergur D. Hansen, Dean of the Department of Faroese Language and Literature on the future strategies of development for the University of the Faroe Islands.

The University of the Faroe Islands is a state-run university located in Tórshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands. The student body is small with about 1100 students in total, and the official language of the University is Faroese, making it the only university in the world to conduct its classes in that language. The University works closely with higher educational institutions in neighboring countries on research and teaching, and it is involved in a growing number of collaborative projects and exchange programs with international partners all over the world. It is the Faroese government which funds the University with an annual operating budget of approximately 90 million DKK.”

Definition taken from

To visit the head office of the university and part of the campus seems like a toy version of such an honorable place of education. Meeting with the Dean of the Department for Language and Literature, Dr. Bergur D. Hansen, proved to be an interesting excursion into Faroese literature, culture, context and visions for society at large. Part of the meeting was joined by the associate professor for literature and language, Prof. Bergur Ronne Moberg. So besides the university’s plans for the future, the meaning of literature in an ultra minor and ultra connected nation was discussed (the subject of Prof. Moberg) as well as the great writers of the Faroe Islands.

It is the general strategy to grow the University and provide a greater variety of courses to the students. Behind that target stands the need to build talent and expertise for the development of the Faroe Islands, as young people will just move abroad if they do not find their favorite topic here in the University.

When planning new courses there often is a conflict of interest between the wishes of the industry lobby and the preferences of the students. For example the Faroe Islands are leading in marine research and technology, but as a course to study that seems not to be so tempting to the students. They prefer subjects like computer science or social sciences – right now the university offers a bachelor degree in computer science here on the Faroe Islands. It takes 3 years and then the students need to go abroad to do their master degree which is another 2 years. Chances are that these students then come back to the islands, if they only leave for 2 years abroad. Whereas if they would leave for 5 years, it might be likely that they meet a partner, get married and stay away from the islands.

So, to expand and grow the subjects and the courses in this university provides good reason to the young generation to stay here or to come again. That brings new opportunities and secures future growth for the society.

“Our target is also to bring the world to the Faroe Islands and get more visibility and acknowledgement” – says Prof. Hansen. In a small university like the one on the Faroe Islands, more teaching than writing and publication happens. So the academic staff is involved in international relationships wherever possible and keen to expand the networking beyond the traditional networks in the Nordic Countries, with which there is a lot of co-operation in research and teaching.

Prof. Bergur D. Hansen gives lectures on travel writing and modern poetry. On the Faroe Islands, lyric poetry has a much stronger tradition than writing prose. The first novel written in Faroese was published in 1909, while poetry and oral literature go back to the middle ages. One great example for a writer of novels and the most famous author coming from the Islands is William Heinesen, who died in 1991. He wrote in Danish language, but comes from the Faroe Islands and the society, people, mysteries of nature and living conditions here are his favorite subject. The most famous book and a warm recommendation to everyone interested in the Nordic soul and conditions of life in the 20th century with all the shifts in society happening is “The Tower at the End of the World”.

To promote the Faroese language, the University offers summer schools to foreign students of Germanic or Nordic languages, which last 3 weeks – there is a lot of interest for these courses, which take place every other year and are open to a total of 25 students.

The study of language and literature – offered both as a BA- and MA degree – is particularly popular for girls – from 21 new students this year, only 5 are male. On the Faroe Islands it is very important to create qualified education and consequently better jobs for women and to offer choices for living and remaining on the Faroe Islands.

At presence no tourism subject is taught at the University – but Prof. Bergur Moberg is working on connecting the local literature with places on the Faroe which could well become a great cultural visit program.

Other topics taught at the university are the Faroese History and Language, Story-telling, Natural sciences /Marine Biology and Fishery – the latter being a subject of co-operation between the industry and the University. There is a new course on art & creativity, like creative writing and music. Music on the Faroe Islands has been more connected to songs rather than to instrumental music. This is typical for countries which have been rather less affluent compared to the European mainland in the old times, like the Faroe Islands or for example Ireland: in such societies creativity was predominantly expressed through poetry and singing, as people did not have the means to buy instruments or get painting materials.

Presently there is a shift happening in perception about the Nordic areas. Previously always seen in clear context of the Nordic Countries, the awareness now shifts toward being part of the Arctic – which also is due to the climate change and the geopolitical changes and political greed for resources incurred.

There is another tone to the term “Arctic” countries than talking about the “Nordic” countries – in so far, that the Arctic context seems to be more mysterious, remote, even frightening in a way. It sends different signals and that strongly affects the story-telling. Crime novels happening in the area are related to this change of perception. But it also creates a new and wider context and new interest in the area.

A new campus area is planned to happen in the next 15 years to expand the space. The University of the Faroe Islands is not part of the Erasmus program as it is not a sovereign nation; individual scholarships have therefore to be applied for at the university.

More reading on the subject:

Header image f.l.t.r.: Annleyg Lamhauge, Prof. Bergur D. Hansen, Johanna Fischer

tmf dialogue marketing – We point out the areas in which the Faroe Islands have excellent business expertise – to connect with similar projects or knowledge clusters around the world. We want the world to come to the Faroe Islands and network on all projects that are introduced here – for more check