The University of the Highlands and Islands has embarked on a new initiative to promote closer connections between its communities and a region in Iceland.

The university has signed an agreement with representatives from Múlaþing, a new municipality in east Iceland.

Múlaþing was created in 2020 by merging Borgarfjarðarhreppur , Djúpavogshreppur , Fljótsdalshérað and Seyðisfjarðarkaupstaður. It is the largest municipality in the country; 10,671 square kilometres in area, which is just over 10% of Iceland's total.  

The agreement will allow the partners to identify potential research collaborations, particularly in areas relevant to the economies of both regions, such as tourism, fishing, aquaculture, agriculture, forestry and sustainability.

The partners also hope to explore ways to enhance educational provision in Múlaþing. The region currently has a limited range of opportunities for people looking to study university courses. Representatives hope the partnership will enable young people to stay in the region to study and work.

Professor Stuart Gibb, Vice-Principal International at the University of the Highlands and Islands, explained: "Our university's innovative approach to learning allows students to study in their local communities and our distinctive curriculum and research is inspired by people, natural environment, economy, culture and heritage of the Highlands and Islands. We wish to extend these principles to our colleagues in Múlaþing, helping their students to reach their full potential, preparing them for a rapidly changing world and ensuring they can play a role in developing their communities and economies. We also hope to promote enduring connections between the people and communities of our regions."

Jón Þórðarson, the representative of the municipal council who led discussions with the university, said: "The University of the Highlands and Islands is the most successful rural development program we have come across and we wish to emulate its success in East Iceland.

"We think there is much to learn from the institute and a partnership will be beneficial to both parties. The similarities between the two regions are a good foundation that we want to build on and we are excited to establish connections for the future."

Professor Todd Walker, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the university, added: "Our mission is to have a transformational impact on the prospects of our region, its economy, its people and its communities. Through this new partnership we seek to internationalise this mission and help Múlaþing in addressing their challenges and achieving their aspirations. It is an exciting development that I hope we can build on in the years ahead."