How students use their time

UKÄ (Swedish Higher Education Authority) has undertaken a study of the way students in Sweden use their time. This was based on an extensive questionnaire survey of students’ living conditions in Europe, Eurostudent V, made in 2013.

Assumption: Full-time study comprised 37.5-45 hour per week for 40 weeks

There are no regulations in Sweden about the number of hours per week that constitute full-time study or the number of hours of classroom instruction that students should be offered or participate in during a normal week of study. Neither the Swedish Higher Education Act (1992:1434) nor the Higher Education Ordinance (1993:100) contain any such provisions.

The discussion of normal hours of study presented by the Swedish Government in its Bill New World – New Higher Education (Govt. bill 2004/05:162) makes it possible, however, to conclude that the number of hours an average student is expected to devote to study during a normal academic year of 40 weeks ranges from 37.5 to 45 hours per week.

In comparison to someone with full-time employment, i.e. 40 hours per week, this means that full-time study may sometimes require a student to devote fewer hours per week and sometimes more.

The majority of students devote at least 37.5 hours per week to their studies

A national questionnaire survey from 2007 disclosed that students registered for full-time programmes, particularly in the humanities and theology, social science and law, did not consider that their studies corresponded to full-time employment.

Swedish Higher Education Authority has once again looked into the question of how Swedish students use their time – this time on the basis of the responses of Swedish students to the most recent Eurostudent questionnaire from 2013. The basic assumption was that as a rule the time required for study would normally comprise between 37.5 and 45 hour per week.

When these figures were applied it turned out that the students' responses revealed that the aggregate time required for study, i.e. classroom instruction plus self-study, corresponds for most full-time students to full-time employment.

The students' responses reinforced the impression that in three domains, education, the humanities and social science, higher education courses and programmes in Sweden consisted to a very large extent of self-study.

The number of hours of classroom teaching varies between different fields of study

The number of hours of classroom instruction accounted for by the students varies greatly between the different main fields of study. In the humanities and social science the students reported an average of 8.5 hours of classroom instruction per week, and in education 10 hours. In the natural sciences and engineering the average figure was 16 hours per week. The highest average figures were reported by students in health science programmes at 19 hours per week.

About 10 per cent of students have so much paid employment that they study less

The students who reported that they have paid employment for more than 15 hours per week as well as men with between 11 and 15 hours a week devoted less than 37.5 hours per week to their studies. Indeed the more hours of paid employment alongside full-time study reported, the fewer the hours devoted to study. This group of students accounts for about 10 per cent of the full-time students who responded to the Eurostudent questionnaire.

Comparison of Sweden and the other Nordic countries

A comparison of responses from Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway showed that the Swedish students devoted somewhat more time to their studies overall. At the same time, Swedish students report that at first-cycle level they receive less classroom instruction than students in Sweden’s neighbouring countries.

At second-cycle level the situation looks different. There the Swedish students reported the highest number of hours of classroom instruction, 12 hours per week, while in the three neighbouring countries the figure was 11 hours per week.

As a rule the Swedish students devoted more time to self-study than students in the other three countries.

New Student irror in 2017

The question of how students use their time is complex and needs further exploration. The athority plans to publish the results of its own questionnaire survey, The Student Mirror, during 2017.


Eurostudent started in 1999 as a joint European project on a voluntary basis. Surveys are conducted at intervals of three to four years and the most recent one, Eurostudent V, was undertaken between April 2012 and May 2015. Cooperation in Eurostudent has increased over the years. The first survey from 2000 included data from eight countries, but in the latest survey, the fifth, the number of countries participating had risen to 30. Two countries have observer status. This means that the Eurostudent project now covers most of Europe and its internet questionnaires reach more than 210,000 students.

About this report

This report is based on the questionnaire responses from students participating in the most recent European survey of student conditions – Eurostudent V. The main purpose of the Eurostudent project is to gather comparable information about the social dimension of higher education in Europe.

The report is the result of cooperation between the Swedish Council for Higher Education, which is responsible for Sweden’s participation in the Eurostudent project, and UKÄ. In its study UKÄ has compiled and analysed the section of the Eurostudent survey that deal with the way students divide their time between attending classroom instruction, self-study and paid employment or placements during the spring semester of 2013.