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The History of Fræðagarður

The Trade Union of Fræðagarður was founded on June 18, 2008 with the merger of the benefits department of the Association of Icelandic Studies and Útgarður. With this merger, two associations united as the core of the past, present and future of higher education and the labour market in Iceland.

The Association of Icelandic Studies was one of the founding members of BHM in 1958, an association that brought together people who studied Icelandic history and culture. Útgarður was an association of people with diverse education in the different disciplines that were created in the 1950s and 1960s, people who felt they didn‘t belong in the traditional professional associations within BHM and founded their own association.

Today, the association is called Fræðagarður. There, people with diverse and different educational backgrounds come together. Fræðagarður is the largest member association of BHM and is growing rapidly, as this is the association that reflects the future, a society where diversity, interdisciplinary working methods and innovation in the labour market are important.

Félag íslenskra fræða - Association of Icelandic Studies

The Association of Icelandic Studies was founded on April 27, 1947. Members of the association were educated in Icelandic studies, cultural history, literature, archaeology, art history, grammar, history and ethnology. The Society of Icelandic Studies was one of the eleven founding societies of BHM on October 23, 1958. The linguist Árni Böðvarsson was the chairman of the society at the time, but he edited, among other things, the Icelandic Dictionary for Schools and the General Public and Íslenskar þjóðsögur og ævintýri I–VI (e. Icelandic Folktales and Stories), collected by Jón Árnason.

The Association of Icelandic Studies was both a professional association and a trade union, and the special benefits department of the association was a union of university-educated curators. The Association of Icelandic Studies had yet to get involved in the community at the BHM level, but it had the idea of establishing a special national library and promoted that idea together with the association.

Outsiders Form an Association

The availability of the various subjects of higher education increased significantly in the 1960s and 1970s, and the number of women in higher education increased rapidly. New professions and occupations were created, but there were often too few individuals in the groups for it to be possible to establish professional associations around each profession. The few groups with university education were thus somewhat landless when it came to choosing a union.

In 1973, persons with a university education were allowed to join the BHM without belonging to a member society. In 1976, the Labour Court refused to deal with the terms of these individuals and dismissed such cases from the court with the argument that it was necessary for the group to belong to an association that handled wage matters. The response to this was to call a meeting and invite everyone who had an individual membership to BHM with the intention of starting a new association.

Útgarður’s founding meeting was held on May 29, 1978 and was attended by 19 persons with membership in BHM, of which 10 were from the group of the first 14 university-educated nurses. At the meeting, nurse Ragnheiður Haraldsdóttir was elected chairman of this new association, but nurses were the largest group within BHM with individual membership. In this first board of Útgarður, five women and two men were elected.

The people of Útgarður were at the forefront of creating a modern labour market, a knowledge society of the 21st century. It is interesting to read the first demands that Útgarður made for its members, which were about new jobs and evaluation of them. Many of these job titles are well known today, but around 1980 they were brand new. Examples include the director of the television film library, the state's youth representative, television programme manager, systems analyst, public relations officer at the Housing Authority, cinematographer, head of department at the National Library, nutritionist and head of patient accounting at the state hospitals.

Innovation, Distribution of Knowledge and an Interdisciplinary Approach to the Future

The Union of Fræðagarður was created by the merger of these two important associations, the benefits department of the Icelandic Studies Association and Útgarður. Fræðagarður was officially founded on June 18, 2008, one day after June 17, when the Icelandic people celebrate the founding of the Republic, and one day before June 19, when we commemorate when women got the right to vote. The first chairman of the newly founded association was Rev. Bragi Skúlason.

Fræðagarður is not, however, a small association like the benefits department of the Icelandic Studies Association and Útgarður, but the largest member association of BHM. The staff of Fræðagarður come from all backgrounds and have different educations and experiences.

Fræðagarður is a rapidly expanding association, and it is not surprising that members have knowledge and experience that is important in the labour market of the future. Innovation, distribution of knowledge and an interdisciplinary approach play a key role in the 21st century, and the people at Fræðagarður are at the forefront of creating that future.