Now you can get a bachelor’s degree in biology in Greenland

Aviaja Lyberth Hauptmann

The new SILA biology program is open to applicants for the first batch of students ever.

By Nicoline Larsen.
Photos Daniel Lyberth Hauptmann.


A new chapter is being added to Greenland’s university history these weeks. For many years, educating biologists within the country has been a dream. A dream that has now come true.


Ilisimatusarfik  and Greenland Institute of Natural Resources have jointly established a new bachelor’s degree in biology called SILA, which is now open for applications for admission to the course. The biology education is based in Nuuk. 


“Many families in Greenland are lucky to have a relationship with hunting, fishing, and being out in nature. It is an obvious strength to build an education on,” says Aviaja Lyberth Hauptmann, head of the department for the new SILA biology education. She adds:


“We have an enormous amount of biological knowledge in our society, so SILA aims to build on the knowledge people already have.”

From idea to reality


For Aviaja Lyberth Hauptmann, who holds a Ph.D. in microbiology, the story began in 2016 when she wrote a blog post. The post contained the first tentative ideas for what would later become SILA.


The thoughts revolved around the idea that it would be ideal for Greenland to have a biology program that builds on the experience and skills many people in the population already possess.


“I come from a family and a culture where reindeer hunting is very significant. It dawned on me how much biological knowledge is needed for reindeer hunting and how great it would be to include hunting as part of an education,” Aviaja Lyberth Hauptmann explains.

“We are so excited. Who will be our students? How will this be for them? Will it be as good as we dream about?”
– Aviaja Lyberth Hauptmann


Over the past three years, she has been responsible for fulfilling the dream of a Greenlandic biology program.


“And now we are finally here. We have created the program. We have a course called ‘Tuttu’ (reindeer). And we will go reindeer hunting. It’s quite touching to think about.”

Understanding and managing our ecosystems


In addition to ‘Tuttu,’ the semester plan also includes courses named ‘Appa’ (thick-billed murre), ‘Siku’ (ice), ‘Puisi’ (seal), and ‘Imaq’ (the sea). 


These courses are all based on Greenlandic reality. For Aviaja Lyberth Hauptmann and the rest of the SILA staff, it’s obvious why Greenland should be able to train its own biologists.


“Over 90 percent of our income in this country is based on living creatures from the sea. It’s the fisheries that pay for our hospitals. It’s the fisheries that pay for our daycare centers. So, of course, we need a population with the skills to understand the ecosystems we are a part of and who can manage them,” Aviaja Lyberth Hauptmann states.

Room for all kinds of students


However, Aviaja Hauptmann Lyberth believes that the program is valuable not only for Greenlandic society but also for individuals.


“Education is about much more than just entering the job market. Education is also a process where people discover how to make a difference in the world. Not only by acquiring concrete tools but also by developing a critical sense and discovering who they are as a person,” she says. 


“So we want this program to build confidence in people.”


With this in mind, they have made it possible for applicants to qualify for the program in various ways so everyone has equal opportunities to enter the program.


“There is room for the person who has achieved top grades in school and has always known they want to pursue something in the natural sciences. But there is also room for the group for whom the school system wasn’t designed but who actually have a lot of biological knowledge and can contribute significantly to society,” says Aviaja Lyberth Hauptmann.


Therefore, Aviaja Lyberth Hauptmann and her colleagues will give the most weight to the motivated application when selecting the first students at SILA.

Applications open now


The first class at SILA has room for 12 students. The classes will take place in the Pikialaarfik building at Ilimarfik (the campus area in Nuuk), where the program is also located today. Applications are open now and until November 1. 


“We are so excited. Who will be our students? How will this be for them? Will it be as good as we dream about?”


Aviaja Lyberth Hauptmann and her colleagues will find out on February 1, 2025, when the doors at Pikialaarfik open for the first students.


You can apply here.