The Public Role of Universities – Sponsorship in Icelandic Universities


  • Sigurður Kristinsson
  • Hjalti Jóhannesson
  • Trausti Þorsteinsson



Public role of universities, academic freedom, financing, sponsorship.


Society is the chief stakeholder in universities. Their main roles are teaching and research, and academic freedom in teaching and research is key to their function. In recent decades, academic freedom has been threatened by the economic system and industry, and in the aftermath of the economic collapse of 2008 universities were said to have been too servile towards industry and government. This study focuses on the public role of universities by considering the attitudes of academic staff and university specialists towards academic freedom and the sponsorship of teaching and research. A survey among this group in Icelandic universities looked at attitudes towards different ways of financing teaching and research. The survey found that just under one third of respondents had worked on privately sponsored research in the last three years. The majority of respondents was opposed to financing university research through grants from companies and just under half was opposed to financing through competitive funds. Respondents in social sciences, education, humanities and arts turned out to be much more likely than other respondents to be concerned about threats from private sponsoring on the objectivity of research. Respondents from private universities or self-financed institutions turn out to be more likely to have worked on privately sponsored research than respondents who work at public universities or state-run research institutes. The former also turn out to be much more supportive of financing research through competitive funds and significantly more open towards private sponsorship.

Author Biographies

Sigurður Kristinsson

Ph.D, Professor at Háskólinn á Akureyri.

Hjalti Jóhannesson

M.A., specialist.

Trausti Þorsteinsson

M.Ed., Docent Professor at Háskólinn á Akureyri.



How to Cite

Kristinsson, S., Jóhannesson, H., & Þorsteinsson, T. (2014). The Public Role of Universities – Sponsorship in Icelandic Universities. Icelandic Review of Politics & Administration, 10(2), 473–498.



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