Accreditation and quality assurance

Higher education is offered by public-sector HEIs and, to a much smaller extent, by independent education providers.

There are 31 public-sector HEIs and they account for approximately 90 per cent of the total number of students (FTEs). The Swedish Parliament decides on the establishment of public-sector HEIs while the Government decides whether an HEI has full university status. Those that lack full university status have only limited powers to award third-cycle qualifications and somewhat limited powers to award second-cycle qualifications. There is no difference, however, in the status of the qualifications awarded.

Independent education providers are entitled to offer higher education courses and programmes if they are granted degree-awarding powers. In Sweden there are three independent HEIs entitled to award either all or some third-cycle qualifications. There are also several independent education providers with limited entitlement to award first-cycle, and in some cases second-cycle, qualifications.

Degree-awarding powers

In Sweden, accreditation of higher education takes the form of granting degree-awarding powers. The regulations that apply vary depending on what types of HEI and qualifications they refer to: public-sector HEIs that lack full university status have less extensive powers but are not as restricted as the independent higher education providers, which have to apply separately for each qualification they wish to award. However, all HEIs and independent higher education providers have to 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 assessed by UKÄ. These powers are granted indefinitely, unless there are grounds for revoking them.

Quality assurance

The Higher Education Act specifies that HEIs are to design their education and research to ensure high quality. The HEIs are responsible for the quality of their education and their quality assurance procedures are the shared concern of the HEI’s staff and students.

UKÄ is responsible for quality assurance of HEIs, both education and research. The assessments are conducted according to a system for quality assurance that has been developed in dialogue with the HEIs and others. The objectives of UKÄ’s reviews are partly to assess the performance of the academic programmes and partly to contribute to the HEIs’ work with quality improvements in higher education and research.

The national system for quality assurance of higher education and research consists of four components: appraisal of degree awarding powers, assessments of HEIs’ quality assurance processes, programme evaluations and thematic evaluations.

Both public-sector HEIs and independent education providers are required to participate in the national evaluations. Failure to meet quality standards may result in the revoking of degree-awarding powers.