Universities and University Colleges

In Sweden, there are about 50 university colleges, universities and independent higher education providers. With approximately 75,000 employees, higher education is the largest governmental operation.

Universities and university colleges have three main missions: to educate, to conduct research and to collaborate with the surrounding society. Higher education institutions are also to promote the utilisation of research results. Most of Swedish higher education institutions are publicly operated.

Public authorities

In Sweden universities and university colleges are independent public authorities that determine which courses and programmes they wish to offer and how they should be organised. Consequently, the same educational programme can appear different at different higher education institutions.

The difference between a university and a university college

The difference is primarily that universities do not need to apply for degree-awarding powers to the same extent as university colleges.

Universities apply to award these degrees:

  • Fine, applied and performing arts qualifications
  • Professional degrees

University colleges apply to award these degrees:

  • Fine, applied and performing arts qualifications
  • Professional Degrees
  • Master’s Degree
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

The Swedish Parliament (Riksdagen) establishes public universities and university colleges and decides whether a university college is allowed to become a university based on a proposal from the Government.

A university by another name

A university does not need to have the word ‘university’ in its name. Karolinska Institutet and the Royal Institute of Technology have university status, but have names that have long been known and established.

Not higher education

There are schools in Sweden that call themselves universities or university colleges, but that have not been granted degree-awarding powers by the Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ). These often offer what are called diploma courses or certificate courses. These are not university or university college courses, and the credits they issue are not higher education credits. Nor do these courses satisfy entry requirements for higher education courses.