Island Studies at the University of Prince Edward Island

Institute of Island Studies

THE INSTITUTE OF ISLAND STUDIES (IIS) is a research, education, and public policy institute based at the University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, Canada. With an emphasis always on Prince Edward Island, the work of the Institute focuses on the culture, environment, and economy of small islands.


The Institute's Advisory Board has adopted a four-point mandate:

  • To encourage a deep knowledge, understanding, and expression of Prince Edward Island;
  • To serve as a bridge between the University and Island communities;
  • To contribute to the formulation of public policy in Prince Edward Island;
  • To undertake comparative studies of Prince Edward Island and other islands.


Since its founding in June 1985, the principal activity of the Institute has been the initiation and co-ordination of research projects and public engagement activities. Areas of special interest have included Island culture, sustainable development, land use, and the knowledge economy. The topics dealt with have ranged from the present state of the Gaelic language on Prince Edward Island to a profile of traditional agricultural practices.

In partial fulfillment of its public policy mandate, the Institute organizes public forums and lectures on major contemporary issues such as environmental policy, water quality, land use, economic development, and electoral reform.

The publisher associated with the IIS, Island Studies Press, features books, videos, reports, and brochures. A special component is the Island Studies Series, short monographs dealing with aspects of culture and environment of Prince Edward Island. The Institute also sponsors workshops, seminars, and conferences.

Through the Social Economy and Sustainability Research Network, IIS facilitates and co-ordinates community-university research partnerships to address the needs of social economy partners on PEI.

For a brief overview of Island Studies and the Institute's historical and recent work, please find a PDF of our most recent powerpoint presentation (7.7Mb).

The Institute of Island Studies plays an active role in UPEI's research. Included here is an excerpt from the UPEI Strategic Research Plan outlining the Institute's involvement.


Island Studies is not only popular here on PEI but also on an international level. Dr. Barry Bartmann, Political Studies, UPEI feels that Island Studies is becoming an emerging discipline.




Since 1990, the Institute has embarked on an active international program. An important defining event was the 1992 Conference, "An Island Living," devoted to jurisdictional and economic development issues in North Atlantic islands.

Inspired by the 1992 Conference, the Institute initiated a new inter-island research and exchange project. Founded in 1994, the North Atlantic Islands Programme (NAIP) originally focused on four islands: Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Iceland, and the Isle of Man. The NAIP has since expanded to include the Faroes, Åland, Cape Breton, Bermuda, the Western Isles of Scotland, and Tasmania and is now operating under the name North Atlantic Forum (NAF).

In addition to participation in the NAF, the Institute has carried out research with scholars and island-based academic institutions in all parts of the world including the South Pacific Islands and South America.



Since being named one of UPEI’s seven research constellations in 2000, Island Studies at the University of Prince Edward Island has become of one of the University’s leading centres of expertise. UPEI’s focus on islands is now recognized around the world, with research activities of the Institute of Island Studies (IIS) leading the way. As a result of the Institute's efforts through the 1990s, UPEI now has:

In the fall of 2000, the University of Prince Edward Island offered its first academic courses in Island Studies. Courses can be credited toward an interdisciplinary Minor in Island Studies, a program designed to promote an understanding of selected features of the world's small islands, including their geographies, ecologies, cultures, political systems, histories, and societies.

The Institute of Island Studies promotes Island Studies as an emerging academic discipline, develops resources to support curriculum, and helps co-ordinate special course offerings. IIS director Dr. Irene Novaczek contributes to the MAIS program through guest lectures and participation in the MAIS steering committee.