The number of new entrants at the upper secondary level is decreasing and an increasing number of new entrants choose to enter general programmes rather than vocational programmes. From 1997 to 2016 the number of new entrants was lowest in 2002, 4,268, and greatest in 2006, 5,429. The number of new entrants is in line with the 16 year old population but in the autumn of 2006 a large cohort of 16 year olds began their studies at the upper secondary level. In the autumn of 2016 the number of new entrants was 4,595. This is the first time that Statistics Iceland publishes statistics on new entrants at the upper secondary level for the years 1997-2016.

Fewer new entrants to vocational programmes
In the first part of the period 1997-2016 around a quarter of new entrants at the upper secondary level entered vocational programmes. The proportion has decreased in more recent years, and in 2016 a little more than 16% of new entrants chose vocational programmes. A part of the explanation is that some students in vocational programmes begin their studies at the upper secondary level in a general line of study before they enter the vocational programme. These students are therefore counted with new entrants in general programmes.

Males were a majority among new entrants to vocational programmes whereas females were a majority among new entrants to general programmes. The difference between the genders in general programmes decreased over the time period, where in 1997 females were over 57% of new entrants but almost 53% in 2016. Males were a little less than 61% of new entrants in vocational programmes in 1997 but roughly 64% in 2016.

Most new entrants at the upper secondary level are 16 years old
A large majority of new entrants are 16 years old the year they begin their studies at the upper secondary level. In the time period from 1997-2016, the proportion of 16 year old new entrants was the greatest in 2016, 90.7% of all new entrants (4,166 students). Likewise, the number of new entrants who are 17 years or older has decreased. Their number was smallest at 722 and greatest at 1,122 from 1997 to 2009 but decreased to 561 in 2010 and 369 in 2016, 8% of new entrants. In addition, 60 new entrants at the upper secondary level were 15 years old or younger in 2016. This trend can be explained in part by the fact that since 2002, over 90% of students have begun their studies at the upper secondary level in the year they turn 16 years old. Therefore, the part of the population that has never entered studies at the upper secondary level is constantly getting smaller.

New entrants to vocational programmes older than new entrants to general programmes
The average age of students when they began their studies in vocational programmes was considerably higher than for students when they entered general programmes in 1997-2016. In vocational programmes, new entrants were on average a little less than 22 years old but a little under 19 years old in general programmes, when looking at the entire period. These data include some students in vocational programmes who began their studies at the upper secondary level in a general line of study before they entered the vocational programme.

The average age of new entrants to general programmes was a little under 21 years in 1997 but had decreased to roughly 17 years in 2016. The same decrease in age cannot be noted among new entrants to vocational programmes, where the average age fluctuated between approximately 20 and 24 years. In 2016 the average age for new entrants to vocational programmes was a little under 22 years.

The number of new entrants with a foreign background increases
When the number of new entrants in analysed with respect to background it can be noted that there is an increase among new entrants with a foreign background during the time-period. Similarly, the number of inhabitants in Iceland with a foreign background has increased in recent years. When numbers on 16 year old new entrants are compared to the 16 year old population it can be seen that new entrants are a higher proportion of inhabitants of the same age in 2016 than in 1997, regardless of their background, with the exception of second generation immigrants. In that cohort, there were only three 16 year old inhabitants in 1997 and they were all new entrants at the upper secondary level.

On average in 2012-2016 there was a small difference in the proportion of 16 year old new entrants between second generation immigrants (95.5%), students with no foreign background (95.2%), students born abroad with an Icelandic background (93.6%), and those who were born in Iceland with one foreign parent (91.8%). On the other hand, the proportion of 16 year old new entrants among those who are born abroad and have one foreign parent is somewhat lower in these years, 84.3%, and lowest among immigrants, 82.3%. Immigrants are those who were born abroad and have foreign parents.

About the data
Information is gathered directly from the schools and from the computer programme INNA used by schools at the upper secondary level, and refers to the number of students in the middle of October each year. New entrants are those who were studying at the upper secondary level in Iceland for the first time according to Statistics Iceland’s student data. Type of study is classified into general and vocational programmes according to the international classification of education ISCED 2011. Classification of students’ background is derived from Statistics Iceland’s population data.

Statistics