University Centre in Svalbard

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University Centre in Svalbard
Universitetssenteret på Svalbard
The UNIS main building (dated 2003)
Location of Longyearbyen
Established 1993
Type Public University
Director Ole Arve Misund
Administrative staff
Students 497 (2013)
Undergraduates 80
Location Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway
Tuition Fees de facto 500 Kroner
Affiliations University of the Arctic
University Centre in Svalbard logo.png

The University Centre in Svalbard is a Norwegian state-owned limited company that provides university-level education in arctic studies. As of August 2012, the universities of Oslo, Bergen, Tromsø, Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Ås are represented on its board. The centre is known as UNIS and forms part of the University of the Arctic. It is led by a director appointed by the board for a three-year term.[1] The university is the world’s northernmost higher education institution, in Longyearbyen at 78° N latitude. The courses offered fall into four main science disciplines: Arctic biology, Arctic geology, Arctic geophysics and Arctic technology.[2]


The university was established in 1993 in Longyearbyen, a town of 2,100 inhabitants on the western coast of Spitsbergen island. The main idea behind establishing UNIS was that the unique geographic location of the island permits the study of Arctic sciences in situ, right outside the university walls. The university was established with an international spirit – its official language is English, and 65% of its 497 students originate from outside Norway (in 2013, foreign students came from 23 countries).[1] Of the international students, the largest groups were from Germany (11%), the United Kingdom (7%), Denmark (6%), the Netherlands (6%) and Russia (5%). The tuition is free of charge and is carried out by 20 full-time professors, 21 assistant professors and 160 guest lecturers. The latter are invited from Norwegian and foreign institutions within various joint research projects.[2] Those projects are also instrumental for the enrollment of master and PhD students – UNIS does not accept its own graduates for those courses and requires potential candidates to present a letter of support from their home institution.[3] One important collaboration is the educational exchange program with Russia. The funding for UNIS is provided by the Norwegian government, research councils and private industry.[1]

Campus and events[edit]

The university conducts both teaching and scientific research. Its main campus is the Svalbard Science Centre, which was officially opened by the King and the Queen of Norway on April 26, 2006.[1]On September 2, 2009, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon visited UNIS. Together with the Norwegian Minister of Environment Erik Solheim, Ban Ki-Moon led a debate on the impact of a melting Arctic on the environment.[4]


Although UNIS has no formal tuition fee, students are required to pay a semester fee of 500 NOK (about 65 EUR). For overnight scientific cruises, fieldwork and excursions, students must pay a daily rate of NOK 200 for food.[5] UNIS has a library, established in 1993.[6] A significant part of the library is electronic: the university is subscribed to a number of electronic databases that can be accessed from the library computers.[7][8] UNIS has several research laboratories[9] and a 15m long research ship Viking explorer.[10]

Most students at UNIS live in six renovated mining barracks in Nybyen (3,900 NOK), a settlement on the southern outskirts of Longyearbyen (30–40 minutes by foot). From September 2014, some students lives in the newly build campus Sjøskrenten (4,500–4,600 NOK), which is a 2 minutes walk from UNIS. Both campuses are owned and administered by the Student Welfare Organization in Tromsø (SiTo).[11]

Safety and well-being[edit]

All students must participate in UNIS safety training in the initial phase of their stay at UNIS. The students will be introduced to some of the safety guidelines that apply on Svalbard. The safety guidelines form a foundation, upon which the students may continue to build.[12] [13]


Coordinates: 78°13′21.74″N 15°39′6.71″E / 78.2227056°N 15.6518639°E / 78.2227056; 15.6518639