Education System

Sweden Education System

An overview of the Swedish education system

The Swedish education system comprises a number of types of schooling and education, designed for individuals of different ages and with differing needs and abilities.

You can read brief information about:

  • Preschool
  • Preschool class
  • Leisure-time centers
  • Other pedagogical activities
  • Compulsory school
  • Upper secondary school
  • Adult education
  • Supplementary school
  • Folk high schools (independent adult education colleges)
  • Higher vocational education
  • Universities and university colleges

 The Swedish Higher Education System 


Academic year

The academic year is split into autumn and spring semesters. The majority of courses and study programmes start in the autumn. The autumn semester starts at the end of August and continues until mid-January of the following year. The spring semester usually starts in January and finishes at the end of June. Between the spring and autumn semesters, many universities have a short summer session. A student may be awarded a maximum of 15 credits for courses taken during the summer session. 


Courses or study programmes

When applying to study in Sweden, you may choose to apply for self-contained (individual) courses or full study programmes. If you choose to study a self-contained course or a range of courses, you are awarded credits on completion of these courses. It is possible to be awarded a diploma or degree if you accumulate the appropriate number of credits in appropriate combinations. 

Alternatively, you may apply for a full study programme. Study programmes are made up of courses, some of which are compulsory (required) and some of which are optional. Some of the study programmes lead to professional or vocational qualifications. Study programmes vary in length from two to eleven semesters. 

  • Two slightly different terms are still used in Sweden to describe institutions of higher education: university (universitet) and university college (högskola). The formal difference is that the former enjoys the unrestricted right to award master, licentiate and PhD degrees while the latter does not. Most university colleges do not award PhDs. However, theSwedish Higher Education Authority can decide, on application by a university college, whether it should be permitted to confer doctoral or licentiate degrees. Some university colleges have been granted the right to do so in specific fields of study.
  • As for the right to award lower level degrees, there is normally no difference between a university and a university college. A degree conferred by a university college is equivalent to a degree awarded by a university.
  • Although there is a formal distinction between a Swedish university and university college, the name of the higher education institution may not always indicate whether it is a university or a university college. Most university colleges call themselves ‘universities’ in English, and, conversely, some universities are called högskolain Swedish, even though they have university status.
  • What does differ from institution to institution, however, is what is on offer in terms of programmes, departments and faculties. The specialisation of each institution has often developed as a result of close, long-standing collaboration with local industries and the business community, which provides a unique experience regardless of whether it’s a university or university college.

An earlier and later admission round each semester

The entire catalog of international courses and study programmes is available for application in the First admission round for both the autumn and spring semester. We encourage ALL international students to apply to these earlier rounds. Not only are more courses available, the application deadlines and decisions come several months before the semester starts. This allows you to apply for and receive your residence permit (if needed), arrange for housing and have plenty of time to plan for your time in Sweden.

There are additional admission rounds – a Second admission round for the autumn and spring semesters. These admission rounds occur later, with admission decisions coming just a short time before the start of the semester. While this affords EU/EEA students the time they need to arrange for their studies in Sweden, students from other countries are not encouraged to apply to this admission round as they will most likely not have enough time to apply for and receive their resident permit.

Credit system

A normal workload is 30 higher education (HE) credits per semester or 60 HE credits per academic year. Prior to 1 July 2007, Swedish higher education institutions awarded points rather than credits. This was changed to make the Swedish credit system compatible with ECTS. 

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