Exploring the Iceland-Switzerland University Partnership

Exploring the Iceland-Switzerland University Partnership


By Swiss Education Group

4 minutes
Students from the Reykjavik University


At first glance, Iceland and Switzerland couldn’t seem more different, given their great distance from one another, and very divergent historical and cultural contexts. Yet they have a fundamental trait in common: both are ‘island states’, with Iceland surrounded by vast swaths of open water, while Switzerland is a ‘political island’ – a tiny country fiercely proud and protective of its independent, neutral status while surrounded on all sides by European Union states. Perhaps this helps explain why educators in Switzerland and Iceland have such an easy and immediate affinity when they come together for a common mission.

And come together they have! For several years, educators at César Ritz Colleges Switzerland (CRCS) and Reykjavik University have worked to successfully build strong ties between the two universities that equally benefit both schools and – most importantly – Icelandic students who want top hospitality careers, not only in some of the most highly rated hotels and restaurants in Iceland, but around the world.

In this partnership, promising Icelandic students start their studies at Reykjavik University, Iceland’s largest private university, by first earning a two-semester certificate, then they transfer to César Ritz Colleges Switzerland to pursue their bachelor’s degree. Many enjoy highly competitive internships around the world as they complete their degrees, then return home to Iceland to pursue successful professional careers.

In one of the most gratifying ‘full-circle’ outcomes of this partnership, Icelandic CRCS alumni so highly value their CRCS education and training that they come back to Switzerland as managers and business owners to the biannual International Recruitment Forum (IRF) to recruit new César Ritz Colleges Switzerland graduates to Iceland. And what new hospitality graduate wouldn’t jump at the chance for an internship or first job in Iceland, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world?

Seven Icelandic students have recently completed their studies in Reykjavik University and will travel to Switzerland to begin their bachelor studies. And not only do Icelandic students come to Switzerland, but César Ritz Colleges Switzerland staff travel to Iceland as well. Tamara Mauroux, Partnership and Development Manager, and Rafn Thorisson, Director of Central Operations and a César Ritz Colleges Switzerland alumnus, had the opportunity to attend a  Reykjavik graduation with Icelandic students, staff, and faculty.

Iceland graduation
Reykjavik graduation with Icelandic student, staff, and faculty.

We checked in with three of these alumni to get their perspectives on our Swiss-Icelandic partnership:

Jökull Alexander Egilsson, Hotel Manager at Grandi by Center Hotels, is a 2015 CRCS graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

What are your key takeaways from your time at César Ritz Colleges?

César Ritz Colleges equipped me with the industry knowledge that enabled me to comfortably go on to run hotels. I was only 27 when I started as a Hotel Manager.

What skill did you learn at César Ritz Colleges that served you best in your career and beyond?

Entrepreneurship! Specifically the entrepreneurial side of hospitality business planning. But there were so many things that I loved about César Ritz Colleges, it’s hard to choose only one.

What makes the hospitality industry in Iceland so special?

The quality of the hospitality here. We are an inclusive society and work place. We have strict labor laws that protect all workers, and we enjoy a societal focus on work-life balance, which is rare in this industry.

Why do you keep coming back to the International Recruitment Forum to hire new graduates of the Swiss Education Group (SEG) schools?

Since 2016, I have been a frequent visitor, and I have noticed that the SEG students possess an attitude that makes them excellent associates. In fact, some of the interns we once hired are now valuable members of our management team. Witnessing their growth and development into skilled professionals has been a truly remarkable experience.

Iceland in one word?



Steingimur Hermannsson, Hotel Manager at Miðgarður by Center Hotels, is a 2018 CRCS alumnus who started his bachelor’s degree at César Ritz Colleges Bouveret, then finished his degree at Hotel Institute Montreux (HIM).

What are your key takeaways from your time at César Ritz Colleges?

It was such an enriching experience to study with peers from different cultures. The international environment of the school is key to the learning experience.

The International Recruitment Forum was also a major milestone –one of the most valuable opportunities that the school offers, in my opinion. Having the chance to connect and network with industry professionals from all over the world is priceless. Both my internships were found through IRF, the first in Abu Dhabi in the Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the second in California at Rosewood Hotel Group for a Management Training Program.

What makes our students special and why do you keep coming back to the IRF to hire them?
Students from the Swiss Education Group schools have a lot of passion for hospitality. They are incredibly driven and passionate about the industry. Plus hiring international staff is important and gives a unique perspective. Iceland welcomes tourists and visitors from all around the world, so being able to cater to our international clients is part of the unique experience we offer.

What is one thing that stuck with you the most from César Ritz Colleges?

It is incredibly hard to choose only one thing,however being afforded the opportunity to partake in the Student Ambassador Forum as President was an exceedingly rewarding experience. 

The opportunity allowed me to improve my skills in team building and event organization. The hands- on experience of event planning, project management, and collaboration, and learning about different cultures from the other students. This is what stuck with me the most.

Iceland in one word?



Eva Josteinsdottir, Chief Operating Officer of Center Hotels Iceland, is a 2001 bachelor’s degree alumna of CRCS.

What is the most important thing you learned?

In addition to learning all aspects of the Hotel Industry, studying in an international environment with so many different cultures and people from all over the world is what make this education so special. There were 24 people in my class and 21 different nationalities. That is such a valuable experience to have in this industry. We now have a team of 46 nationalities at Center Hotels welcoming guests from all over the world. That is the nature and the amazing part of the hospitality world.

What is special about Icelandic hospitality?

Iceland is in demand year-round, and we are on many people’s bucket list. If you enjoy nature, culture and excellent food, Iceland is the perfect place and each season offers a completely different experience

If you are an Icelandic student aspiring for a hospitality career, what better way to prepare yourself for a top manager career than to study in Switzerland and intern in other international settings? Then you can either return to your fabulous country well-prepared to quickly move up the management ladder, or you may choose to take on the wider world of hospitality. You’ll have all the choices you want! And if you’re a Swiss or international student who dreams of having a professional tourism career in Iceland, then we have that covered as well through this wonderful partnership with our friends in Iceland. Welcome to CRCS!




By Swiss Education Group