Higher education in Sweden

Higher education in Sweden can include both complete degree programmes and individual courses. Approximately 400,000 students are enrolled full-time or part-time.

In 2016 SEK 69 billion was spent on higher education while the total expenditures for the higher education sector in Sweden were SEK 79,4 billion. This corresponds to 1.81 per cent of Sweden's gross domestic product (GDP). 

Higher education in Sweden can include both complete degree programmes and individual courses. All higher education takes the form of courses at higher education institutions (HEIs) and independent higher education providers with degree-awarding powers. The courses may be of different lengths, but usually they last from 5 to 20 weeks. There are degree programmes that consist of specific courses.

Students can also combine freestanding courses towards a general qualification.

Courses conclude with a written or oral summative assessment.

All higher education and degrees in Sweden are divided into:

  • undergraduate level, or first cycle
  • master’s level, or second cycle
  • doctoral level, or third cycle

The levels build upon one another.

This educational and degree system was introduced on 1 January 2007 as part of Sweden’s efforts to adapt its higher education to the rest of Europe through the Bologna Process. The aim is to make higher education comparable among the 50 countries that are part of the process.

Read more about the Bologna Process

All education in Swedish HEIs should rest on a scholarly or artistic basis and proven experience.

First cycle

First-cycle courses and study programmes are to be based primarily on the knowledge acquired by students in upper-secondary school or equivalent knowledge. Therefore, to be admitted to first-cycle courses and study programmes, you must have completed an upper-secondary education or the equivalent.

Read more about the entry requirements on the website of the Swedish Council for Higher Education (UHR)

You can complete either an entire degree programme in the first cycle or a combination of freestanding courses. Both variants can be the basis for a first-cycle qualification. You can also take individual freestanding courses.

Second cycle

Second-cycle courses and programmes should primarily build on and enhance the knowledge, proficiency and abilities that students have acquired in the first cycle.

There are different requirements for those admitted to degree programmes or courses in the second cycle.

Read more about the entry requirements on the UHR’s website

You can complete either an entire degree programme in the second cycle or a combination of freestanding courses. Both variants can be the basis of a second-cycle qualification. You also can take individual freestanding courses.

Third cycle

Third-cycle courses and study programmes are to be based on the knowledge acquired by students in first- and second-cycle courses and study programmes, or equivalent.

To be admitted to third-cycle courses and study programmes requires general entry requirements and specific entry eligibility as well as the assumption that you have the ability to benefit from the education. HEIs may only accept applicants who are employed as doctoral students or awarded study grants for doctoral students.

Read more about the admission requirements at UHR’s website