Higher education in the 21st century

Swedish higher education is expanding in the same way as it is internationally.

The Bologna Reform

Through the 2007 degree reform, Swedish higher education adapted to the European standard, known as the Bologna Process. The reform aimed to create comparability among different countries’ educational programmes. Sweden had already introduced a system in which studies are measured in weeks in 1977. This was novel for many other countries. In 2007 the new academic year was standardised at 60 credits, 40 study weeks, for everyone.

Common grading system

A common grading system, the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS), was introduced so that grades could be compared between countries. For Sweden, the biggest change became the division of education into first- and second-cycle programmes. Along with post-graduate studies, Sweden adopted the international norm of three steps in all higher education: education at the first, second and third cycles. With this reform, three types of degrees were introduced: general qualifications; qualifications in the fine, applied and performing arts; and professional degrees. The qualitative targets for education became clearer and more important, especially in the 50 different professional degrees.

Swedish higher education today

Swedish higher education follows international developments, particularly in the strong expansion of programmes and students and the increase in internationalisation. Sweden accepts a high percentage of foreign students, and numerous Swedish students fulfil part or all of their education at an international university. Sweden also follows trends in online education.


In addition, Sweden follows international trends in how higher education institutions interact with surrounding society. Collaboration should characterise all activities. For example, this could involve placements as part of a course or programme, discussions of work life issues being incorporated into courses, arranging career days, popularising research and promoting the utilisation of research results.