History of the Vigdís International Centre


History of the Vigdís International Centre

At the turn of the last century, the idea was born within the Institute for Foreign Languages to have a building constructed to house both the teaching of foreign languages as well as facilities for an international centre for the research and dissemination of knowledge of foreign languages and cultures at the University of Iceland. At the same time, the institute changed its name to the Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute for Foreign Languages.

Auður Hauksdóttir, who was then the institute’s director, and Vigdís Finnbogadóttir worked on making this idea a reality, helped by a grant from the Swedish National Bank (Sveriges Riksbank) which had enabled the institute’s board of governors to set up an international advisory board in 2008.

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was appointed Goodwill Ambassador for Languages by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1998, at which time the wish for the institute to operate under the auspices of UNESCO was first openly mooted.

Katrín Jakobsdóttir, who was then the Minister for Education and Culture, signed a mutual agreement between the Icelandic government and UNESCO on 15 April 2013, and Irena Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, signed it later that same year. According to the agreement, the Vigdís Centre operates as a “Category 2 Centre under the auspices of UNESCO”.


International Advisory Board

In 2008 an international consultation group was appointed, funded by a grant from the Swedish Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation) to advise the board of Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute board regarding the international language centre.

The group comprised: Anju Saxena, professor of linguistics at the University of Uppsala; Bernard Comrie, director of the Department of Linguistics at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, now professor of linguistics at the University of California, Santa Barbara; Jens Allwood, professor of linguistics at the University of Gothenburg; and Professor Peter Austin of SOAS, University of London.

A further grant from the Foundation in 2014 enabled the group to bring more scholars on board: Professor Anne Holmen of the University of Copenhagen, director of Center for Internationalisering og Parallelsproglighed (CIP, Centre for Internationalization and Parallel Language Studies); Lars Borin, professor of linguistics at the University of Gothenburg and director of Språkbanken (the Swedish Language Bank); and Henriette Walter, emeritus professor of linguistics at the Université de Haute-Bretagne and director of the phonological laboratory at the Sorbonne.