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Chapter 1: Higher Education System

Section 1.1: Schematic Description of the Higher Education system

Section 1.1 Sweden

Section 1.2: Description of Higher Education System

General Qualifications

First cycle:

  • Högskoleexamen (Higher Education Diploma) requires 120 credits and a diploma project.
  • Kandidatexamen (Degree of Bachelor) requires 180 credits in a defined specialisation determined by each higher education institution. At least 90 credits, including an independent project of 15 credits, with in-depth studies have to be completed in the main field of study.

Second cycle:

  • Magisterexamen (Degree of Master (60 credits)) requires a defined specialisation determined by each higher education institution. At least 30 credits have to be completed in the main field of study including an independent project of 15 credits. In general, the student must also hold either a kandidatexamen or a professional degree of at least 180 credits or an equivalent foreign degree.
  • Masterexamen (Degree of Master (120 credits)) requires a defined specialisation determined by each higher education institution itself. At least 60 credits have to be completed in the main field of study including an independent project of at least 30 credits. In general, the student must also hold either a kandidatexamen or a professional degree of at least 180 credits or an equivalent foreign degree.

Third cycle:

The higher education institutions decide which subjects may be offered within the third cycle. A study plan must state the principal organisation of the studies, the specific admission requirements and other necessary regulations. Two qualifications are offered within the third cycle, both at level 8 of The Swedish Qualifications Framework (SeQF/EQF):

  • Licentiatexamen (Degree of Licentiate), at least 120 credits including a thesis of at least 60 credits. A licentiatexamen can also be awarded as an intermediate degree towards doktorsexamen.
  • Doktorsexamen (Degree of Doctor), 240 credits including a thesis of at least 120 credits. The thesis has to be defended publicly.

Qualifications in Fine, Applied and Performing Arts

Qualifications in fine, applied and performing arts are awarded within all three cycles. Konstnärlig högskoleexamen (Higher Education Diploma) and konstnärlig kandidatexamen (Degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts); Konstnärlig magisterexamen (Degree of Master of Fine Arts (60 credits)) and konstnärlig masterexamen (Degree of Master of Fine Arts (120 credits)); Konstnärlig licentiatexamen (Degree of Licentiate) and konstnärlig doktorsexamen (Degree of Doctor).

Professional Qualifications

Professional qualifications are awarded in the fields of engineering, health care, agriculture, law, education, etc., offered in either the first or the second cycle. Normally, general entry requirements to professional degrees are the same as to general first-cycle qualification. Programmes leading to professional qualifications may vary in length and stretch over two cycles. Further reading: https://www.uhr.se/globalassets/_uhr.se/english/the_swed_high_system3.pdf

Section 1.3: Number of Higher Education Institutions

  • 15 public universities
  • 16 public university colleges
  • 2 independent universities
  • 2 independent university colleges
  • 13 other independent higher education providers.

Public authorities and independent education providers. The majority of universities and university colleges are public authorities, subject to the same legislation and regulations as other public authorities in Sweden, as well as the particular statutes, ordinances and regulations relevant to the higher education sector. A small number of universities and university colleges are self-governing and independent. They are private higher education institution operated by organisations, such as foundations or associations. They operate on the basis of an agreement with the Government and are obliged to follow the statutes, ordinances and regulations relevant to the higher education sector. In addition, there are a number of independent organisations with degree awarding powers. Most of these are small and offer only courses within one or a few fields. They are primarily concerned with health, psychotherapy or theological education.

Section 1.4: Number of Students in Higher Education

Number of students in Sweden 2016/17

  • Total number of students: 402 200 (Including incoming students), first cycle courses or programmes: 295 700,  second-cycle courses or programme: 106 500
  • Number of foreign students enrolled in full degree programmes: 35 900, Number of outgoing exchange students with credit transfer 7 110, Number of incoming exchange students with credit transfer 13 940.

Section 1.5: Structure of Academic Year

The Swedish academic year starts at the end of August, and is divided into two semesters: Autumn semester begins at the end of August and lasts until mid-January, usually with a short break at the end of December. Spring semester runs from mid-January to the beginning of June. The total number of academic days or holidays is not centrally regulated, and higher education institutions decide autonomously the exaxt dates and length of study periods. Teaching activities and examination periods vary according to programmes and courses, and is decided by teachers. During June-September, most higher education institutions also offer single subject courses of 7.5-10 ECTS credits.

Section 1.6: National Qualifications Framework (or Similar)

The Swedish Qualifications Framework (SeQF) has eight qualification levels, corresponding to the qualification levels of the European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning (EQF).

SeQF qualification levels 1-5 cover knowledge, skills and competencies acquired within compulsory school and upper secondary school, while SeQF qualification levels 6-8 cover knowledge, skills and competencies acquired within higher education.

Education providers awarding qualifications that are not regulated by law – e.g. employer organisations, liberal adult education providers/folk high schools, and sports associations - may apply to Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education (Myndigheten för yrkeshögskolan) to have their qualifications categorised on the appropriate level of the SeQF.

Higher Education Diploma programmes and Degree of Bachelor programmes are at SeQF level 6. Degree of Master programmes are level 7. Degree of Licentiate and Degree of Doctor are both level 8.

Section 1.7: Learning Outcomes in Higher Education

The Swedish Higher Education Ordinance states what qualifications may be awarded, and the scope, objectives as well as intended learning outcomes for these qualifications. Higher education institutions must define course syllabi for each course within the first and second cycle and a programme syllabus for each study programme composed of individual courses. Degree cycle, number of credits and intended learning outcomes must be specified for each course.

Section 1.8: Admission Requirements to Higher Education

Entry requirements first cycle

In order to meet the general entry requirements for first cycle studies (bachelor's level), applicants must:

  • have successfully completed their upper secondary education
  • be able to demonstrate proficiency in English.

The entry requirement for studies at the bachelor's level in Sweden is the equivalent of the Swedish upper secondary course English 6. (See below for English Language Requirements.)

Specific entry requirements are often linked to the area of study of the course or programme. These specific requirements are outlined in individual course or programme descriptions which can be found on the website of each university.

Entry requirements second cycle

To meet the entry requirements for second cycle studies (master's level), applicants must have been awarded a bachelor's degree (equivalent to a Swedish kandidatexamen) from an internationally recognised university.

In addition, applicants must be able to demonstrate proficiency in English by taking an internationally recognised test, such as TOEFL, IELTS, etc. Previous upper secondary studies or university studies completed in some countries can also meet the requirement.

Higher education institutions determine autonomously what level is required for a master's level course or programme. In addition to the English language proficiency requirement, there may be other specific entry requirements for the course or programme, decided by the higher education institution. These are outlined in individual course or programme descriptions which can be found on the website of each university or university college.

English language requirements

In order to be eligible for university studies in Sweden, applicants must demonstrate that they meet the English requirements for the course or programme. For first cycle courses and study programmes (bachelor's level), the English language general entry requirement is the equivalent of English studies at upper secondary level in Sweden, called English 6. For most second cycle courses and programmes (master's level), the requirement is also the equivalent of English 6, though some may require a lower or higher level of English. Some higher education institutions have their own requirements regarding what is needed in order to demonstrate English proficiency. Applicants can demonstrate that they meet the English language requirement through certain upper secondary (high school) studies, certain higher education studies, or an internationally recognised English test.

Third cycle studies entry requirements

Admission to Swedish third cycle programmes (doctoral degree) is managed by the universities' faculty boards. Applications are made directly to the university. Applicants must have an academic degree equivalent to a degree of bachelor or higher in the intended field of study. Generally a degree of master is a de facto requirement. Applicants are also required to have funding for the entire programme period.

Section 1.9: Grading System

There is no national grading system in Sweden. Higher education institutions may determine what grading system is to be used. No overall grade is given for a degree and students are not ranked. Students receive grades on the courses they have completed. The various grading systems have different numbers of grades within a grading system. Examples are Fail, Pass and Pass with credit and A/B/C/D/E/Fx/F, respectively. Some Swedish higher education institutions have introduced a 7-step grading scale that is comparable to that used in the ECTS.

Section 1.10: Tuition Fee System for International Students

Students coming from a country outside the EU/EES area or Switzerland and who are not studying in exchange programmes must pay both registration and tuition fees for studies in the first cycle and second cycle, and the higher education institutions are required to charge a fee that covers the full cost, including administrative costs. The higher education institutions have slightly different interpretations of the regulation that they are to cover all costs; some include, for example, provisions for scholarships in their tuition fees.

The average tuition fee for programmes with fee-paying students in 2015 was just over SEK 125,000 per academic year.

The recruitment of fee-paying students from certain countries is dependending on scholarships, but this varies widely. For incoming students from some of Sweden's development partner countries, there is a direct correlation between mobility and the availability of scholarships. In total, almost 40 per cent of paying students have Swedish scholarships.

Section 1.11: Graduation Requirements and/or Qualification Awarding Requirements

The degree cycles, the number of credits for each cycle, and the qualification awarding requirements are described in detail in section 1.2.

In the Higher Education Ordinance, the Government has laid down which qualifications may be awarded and the scope, the objectives as well as intended learning outcomes for these qualifications.

Higher education within the first and second cycles is provided in the form of courses. Courses may be grouped together into programmes with varying levels of individual choice. Students themselves are also able to combine different courses towards a degree.  A course syllabus is required for each course within the first and second cycle and a programme syllabus for each study programme.

Degree cycle, number of credits and intended learning outcomes must be specified by the higher education institution for each course.

Students may request a degree certificate from the higher education institution as proof of their qualification. The degree certificate provides information about the scope and contents of the student’s academic studies. It also makes clear what qualification the degree certificate refers to and what higher education institution has issued it. The degree certificate includes a Diploma Supplement, which contains a description of the content and scope of the student’s Swedish qualification and the Swedish higher education system.

Section 1.12: Relevant Current and Prospective Reforms in Higher Education

New admission requirements

The Government has developed new general and specific entry requirements for higher education, with a larger focus on applicants' competencies. In an attempt to create more paths to higher education, the Government has also introduced a new national entrance examination for students who have not completed upper secondary school. The applicant must be at least 24 years old, and passing the examination will give the applicant a basic eligibility for higher education as meeting the general entry requirements. Moreover, an increased age limit on applicants taking the Swedish Scholastic Aptitude Test (only in Swedish language) will be introduced; students must from 2022 be 18 to take the test. Most of these new rules will come into force in January 2022.

More chances for visually impaired applicants

Until recently, visually impaired applicants to higher education have been able to take the Swedish Scholastic Aptitude Test a maximum of three times in DAISY or braille format. As of 2018, the Swedish Council for Higher Education has decided to offer an adapted test every year for the visually impaired, so that they may have the same opportunities as other students.

Increased internationalisation in higher education

In order to achieve a higher quality of education and research and to contribute to sustainable development, the Government proposes that a new wording regarding internationalisation should be included in the Higher Education Act by 2020, and a new strategy be implemented between 2020 and 2030. The new strategy states that international understanding and intercultural competence shall constitute an integrated part of higher education and research in Sweden.

Increased number of university places for people with foreign degrees In 2017

the Swedish government increased the number of student places for students holding foreign degrees in three areas: Biomedicine, Economy, and Computer Science. These changes affect several universities across Sweden.

 

Chapter 2: Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Section 2.1: Quality Assurance Body in Higher Education

Responsibility for the quality of higher education is regulated in the Higher Education Act. Higher education institutions and the Swedish Higher Education Authority have a shared responsibility for quality assurance in higher education and research. Higher education institutions must ensure that high standards are attained in courses and programmes as well as in research.

Quality assurance procedures are also the shared concern of staff and students. By evaluating the quality of studies leading to the award of first, second and third-cycle qualifications and quality assurance procedures, The Swedish Higher Education Authority ensures that higher education institutions are accountable.

The Swedish Higher Education Authority is a government agency, operating in three main areas:

  1. quality assurance of higher education and research, and appraisal of the degree-awarding powers of public-sector higher education institutions;
  2. legal supervision of higher education;
  3. monitoring efficiency, follow-up and horizon scanning as well as responsibility for statistics in the higher education sector.

The operations of the Swedish Higher Education Authority are controlled by the Government through the instructions it issues. These instructions define the areas of responsibility and the tasks to be undertaken.

Section 2.2: Quality Assurance System

 
Study programme
Institution
Voluntary
 
 
Compulsory
x
X
Regularity
6 to 7 years
6 to 7 years
External
X
X
Internal
X
X

Further information
Higher education institutions and the Swedish Higher Education Authority have a shared responsibility for quality assurance in higher education. Therefore, the Swedish system for quality assurance in higher education establishes a clear link between the reviews of The Swedish Higher Education Authority and the quality assurance processes at higher education institutions, while also considering how the reviews can contribute to further improving this work.

The objectives of The Swedish Higher Education Authority reviews are partly to assess the performance of the study programmes and partly to contribute to higher education institutions’ work with internal quality improvement.

The quality assurance system for higher education consists of the following four components:

  1. appraisal of applications for degree-awarding powers;
  2. institutional reviews of higher education institutions’ quality assurance processes;
  3. programme evaluations;
  4. thematic evaluations.

The model consists of four aspect areas and three perspectives, which together take into account both applicable Swedish laws and ordinances, and the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG), and which form the common basis for the system’s four components.

The aspect areas are:

  1. governance and organisation;
  2. environment, resources and area;
  3. design, teaching/learning and outcomes;
  4. follow-up, actions and feedback.

The three perspectives are:

  1. student and doctoral student perspective;
  2. working life perspective;
  3. gender equality perspective.

This model also aims to support the internal quality assurance processes of the higher education institutions. The reviews of The Swedish Higher Education Authority are based on peer review. An independent external assessment panel performs the review. The panel normally consists of external experts, student representatives and employer and labour market representatives.

The six-year evaluation cycle 2017-2022 comprises the following evaluations:

  • all higher education institutions' internal quality assurance systems;
  • all initial teacher education programmes;
  • a majority of medical programmes (medicine, nursing); 25% of third cycle programmes.

Section 2.3: Link Programme Authorisation with Quality Assurance

In Sweden, accreditation of higher education takes the form of granting degree-awarding powers to higher education providers. The regulations that apply vary depending on what types of higher education institution and qualifications they refer to: public-sector higher education institutions that lack full university status have less extensive powers but are not as restricted as the independent higher education providers, which have to make separate applications for each qualification they wish to award. However, all higher education institutions and independent higher education providers must apply for entitlement to award professional qualifications and qualifications in the fine, applied and performing arts. With the exception of independent higher education providers, who apply to the Government, applications for degree-awarding powers are appraised by The Swedish Higher Education Authority. These powers are granted indefinitely, unless there are grounds for revoking them.

 

Chapter 3: Credit System in Higher Education

Section 3.1: Description of Credit System

Sweden has a system of higher education credits, compatible with ECTS credits. The number of higher education credits per standard academic year correspond to 60 ECTS (30 ECTS/semester), and 1 week’s full-time study equals 1,5 credit unit. Higher education within the first and second cycles is provided in the form of courses. The number of higher education credits awarded for each course is determined by the amount of study normally required to attain its objectives. Courses may be grouped together into programmes with varying levels of individual choice. Students themselves are also able to combine different courses towards a degree. Degree cycle, number of credits and intended learning outcomes must be specified for each course in the course syllabus. In the Higher Education Ordinance, the Government has laid down what qualifications may be awarded and the scope, objectives, and intended learning outcomes for these qualifications.

Section 3.2: Credit Transfer System(s)

  • ECTS – European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System
  • The Swedish system of higher education credits is compatible with, but not identical to, ECTS.

Section 3.3 Additional Information

Recognition of prior learning as a result of a validation process is carried out by higher education institutions and may alter general or specific entry requirements as well as credit transfer.

Section 3.4: Application of Credit System in Higher Education Institutions Obligatory?

Yes.

Section 3.5: Number of Credits per Academic Year/Semester

The number of credits per standard academic year is 60 ECTS (30 ECTS/semester).

Section 3.6: Number of Credits per Higher Education Cycle

First-cycle qualifications

  • General qualifications: 120-180 credits;
  • Qualifications in the fine, applied and
  • performing arts: 120-180 credits;
  • Professional qualifications (32): 120-180 credits.

Second-cycle qualifications

  • General qualifications: 60-120 credits;
  • Qualifications in the fine, applied and
  • performing arts: 60-120 credits;
  • Professional qualifications (22): 90-330 credits.

Third-cycle qualifications

  • General qualifications: 120-240 credits;
  • Qualifications in the fine, applied and
  • performing arts: 120-240 credits.

For a list of the number of credits for all qualifications in the first, second and third cycles, see The Swedish Higher Education Council website https://www.studera.nu/startpage/higher-education-studies/higher-education-in-sweden/study-levels-and-degrees/

Section 3.7: Description of Credit Unit

An academic year that comprises 40 weeks of full-time study corresponds to 60 higher education credits, that is, 1 week’s full-time study equals 1,5 credit unit. The number of higher education credits awarded for each course is determined by the amount of study normally required to attain its objectives. The number of credits reflects the quantity of work each course requires in relation to the total quantity of work required to complete a full year of academic study at the institution, that is, lectures, practical work, seminars, self-studies — for example in the library or at home — and examinations or other assessment activities.

Section 3.8: Link between Learning Outcomes and Credits

A course syllabus is required for each course within the first and second cycle and a programme syllabus for each study programme. The course syllabus specifies degree cycle, number of credits, and intended learning outcomes.

Last updated in 2020
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