Study Abroad: Tips & Updates

Education System in Sweden: Guide to Swedish Higher Education System

Rohan Deshmukh

Sweden has a comprehensive education system based on a 9-year model. It is mandated by the Swedish Education Act that children in Sweden attend school for at least 10 years from when they turn 6 years. Secondary school is optional but necessary for students who want to progress into the Swedish higher education system and pursue first, second or third cycle degrees.

If you are planning to study in Sweden, it is good to start by learning how the education system in Sweden works. Though most of you will be a part of the Sweden education system for international students, you must have a basic idea of the different levels of education in Sweden. In this blog we will cover the education system in Sweden, Swedish higher education system, types of universities in Sweden and more.

  Table of Contents:

  1. Sweden Education System for International Students
  2. Swedish Higher Education System
  3. University System in Sweden
  4. Types of Universities in Sweden

Sweden Education System for International Students

Children between the age of 6 to 16 years require education in Sweden. There are different levels of education offered to children in this group which include pre-school, primary and secondary school. After completing secondary school, students can move to the upper secondary level and earn a university entrance qualification required to get admission to universities of the Swedish higher education system.

Let us take a look at few key points for education at the pre-school, primary and secondary levels:


  • Pre-school education is generally provided by the Swedish municipalities and is known as Förskola in Sweden.
  • Pre-schooling is basically the child development stage meant for children between 5-7 years.
  • While in pre-school, children are prepared to help in a smooth transition from pre-school to primary school.

Primary School

  • The primary school or compulsory education in Sweden is known as Grundskola.
  • It is meant for students up to the age of 16 years.
  • Students in the primary level are graded between grades A to E and F in subjects that they have failed.

Secondary School

  • Secondary school in Sweden is known as Gymnasieskola. It is not compulsory but required if you wish to enroll in programs at the higher education levels.
  • Programs at the secondary level continue for 3 years and include grades 10, 11 and 12 for students up to 18 years.
  • There are 18 national programs to choose from including 12 vocational programs and 6 higher education preparatory programs.

Swedish Higher Education System

The Swedish higher education system is divided into 3 levels or cycles:

  1. Bachelor’s level
  2. Master’s level
  3. Doctoral level

Take a look at the details of different levels of the Sweden education system for international students:

  1. Bachelor’s Level

Bachelor’s level is the first cycle program in Sweden which is commonly referred to as the undergraduate programs. Sweden offers an array of undergraduate courses but limited undergraduate degrees. There are about 100 bachelor’s programs in Sweden to choose from.

Available Intakes

Autumn and Spring

Eligibility Criteria

Completed upper secondary studies or Gymnasieskola; English 6

Top Universities

  • Lund University
  • Stockholm University
  • Uppsala University
  • Chalmers University of Technology
  • KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Average Annual Tuition Fees

75,000-110,000 SEK/ year

  1. Master’s Level

The second cycle or masters in Sweden is known as the graduate level programs. You will find around 900 master’s degree programs for international students in Sweden all of which are offered in English.

Available Intakes

Autumn and Spring

Eligibility Criteria

Completed bachelor’s degree equivalent to Swedish kandidatexamen; English 6

Top Universities

  • KTH Royal Institute of Technology
  • Lund University
  • Uppsala University
  • Chalmers University of Technology
  • University of Gothenburg

Average Annual Tuition Fees

80,000-295,000 SEK/ year

  1. Doctoral Level

The highest level of degree in any education system is a doctoral degree. Doctoral degrees in Sweden are the third cycle programs for which a student must complete a master’s degree. Universities offering PhD in Sweden set their own entry requirements. One of the most remarkable points about pursuing a doctorate in Sweden is that it is completely free of cost for EU as well as international students.

Available Intakes


Eligibility Criteria

Completed master’s degree.

Top Universities

  • Karolinska Institute
  • Lund University
  • Uppsala University
  • Stockholm University
  • University of Gothenburg

Average Annual Tuition Fees

No tuition fee is charged.

University System in Sweden

The Sweden education ranking is a point of discussion as 12 universities rank in the overall THE World University Rankings and 8 universities rank in the QS Rankings 2022. Karolinska Institute and Lund University are the highest ranked while Uppsala University is the oldest university of the Swedish higher education system. Here we aim to discuss a few key points related to the Swedish university system. It is important to be aware of the credit system, academic year and grading system followed to study in Sweden.

Let us take a look at each of this aspect with respect to the higher education system in Sweden:

Credit System in Sweden

The university system in Sweden offers courses as well as degrees. Courses last up to 5-15 credits and can be combined to complete a degree. On the other hand, programs such as bachelor’s, master’s or PhD consist of several courses and require 60-180 credits to be completed. It takes 60 credits to complete one academic year of your studies in Sweden.

Suggested: 10 Best universities for masters in Sweden!

Academic Year in Sweden

Typically, an academic year in Sweden stretched over 10 months divided into 2 parts known as the Autumn and Spring semesters. The Autumn semester starts in August and ends in December or January. This will mostly be your first semester in Sweden and you will take time to settle down in Sweden. The Spring semester starts in January and continues up to June. With the end of the even semester, you will get a Summer break which is utilized by many students to pursue Summer courses.

Grading System in Sweden

The grading system in Sweden is based on a letter system just like in many institutions in India. Students are awarded grades from A to E and F grade is given to students who fail in the exam. Generally, A stands for excellent, B for very good and C for fair results. Your results will say Godkänd which means pass or Underkänd which means fail.

Types of Universities in Sweden

The Sweden education system for international students comprises around 50 universities and university colleges. Most of these institutions are public while some are private universities. The major difference in the Swedish education system lies between universitet and högskolor i.e. universities and university colleges.

Let us discuss the different types of universities in Sweden:

Public University

Public universities or universitet in Sweden are state-funded but enjoy the autonomy to decide courses to be offered, curriculum, eligibility criteria, etc. These universities offer programs from the bachelor’s to doctorate levels. There are 14 public universities in Sweden with some of the top names including:

  1. Lund University
  2. Stockholm University
  3. KTH Royal Institute of Technology
  4. Uppsala University
  5. University of Gothenburg

Public University Colleges

Public university colleges known as högskolor in Sweden are different from public universities as the former offers vocational training in subjects related to engineering, applied science, natural science, etc. and are smaller than public universities. Some university colleges in Sweden are:

  1. University of Skovde
  2. Gavle University College
  3. Halmstad University
  4. Royal College of Music
  5. University of Boras

Private University

Private universities or independent universities are those owned by organizations or foundations. There are only a few private universities in Sweden that have received the authority to award degrees from the Parliament. These include:

  1. Chalmers University of Technology
  2. Stockholm School of Economics
  3. Johannelund School of Theology
  4. Jonkoping University Foundation
  5. Beckmans College of Design
  6. Ersta Sköndal Bräcke University College
  7. Red Cross University College
  8. Sophiahemmet University
  9. Newman Institute

While learning about the education system in Sweden, you may find some similarities and some differences with the education systems followed in different countries. The Sweden education ranking has improved over the years and is able to provide students with a good quality of education at affordable rates. Internships and exchange programs are quite common in the Swedish higher education system. There are several top companies in Sweden such as Volvo, H&M, Ericsson, IKEA among others that are eager to recruit young talent.

Sweden is full of opportunities as it has limited international students and is still in the developing stage to become a hotspot for students interested to study abroad. While everyone is running behind top institutions in the UK, USA and Canada, take the opportunity to enroll in institutions in Sweden and set yourself to gain a work permit in Sweden.


Frequently Asked Questions About Education System in Sweden

What type of education system does Sweden have?

What is the Sweden education system ranking?

Is education in Sweden free of cost?

How many international students are a part of the Swedish higher education system?

How to apply to universities in Sweden?

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