The Swedish higher education system
Qualifications from all higher education institutions (universities, university colleges and independent higher education providers) that are recognised by the Government are of equal official value. The same legislation governs all state higher education institutions. All Swedish degrees are issued in accordance with the same degree ordinances.
The Swedish higher education system is based on the Swedish Higher Education Act (SFS 1992:1434) and the 1 January 2007 amendments to the Higher Education Ordinance (1993:100). The following description is a short summary based on the legislation regulating the Swedish higher education system.
The Swedish Higher Education Authority has been responsible for the quality assurance system for all higher education since 1 January 2013. Before 2013 The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education was the responsible agency. Evaluation reports are available to the public. For more information, please visit the Swedish Higher Education Authority's website.
National Qualification Frameworks
The Swedish Higher Education Act and the Higher Education Ordinance have been amended in accordance with the agreements reached as part of the Bologna Process, including the Qualifications Frameworks in the European Higher Education Area (QF-EHEA). Legislation for a three-cycle structure of higher education started to apply in July 2007, and is now the only one in use in all Swedish higher education. Transitional provisions apply to courses and programmes that started prior to this.
For more information: Qualification frameworks for Swedish qualifications and degrees, or the ENIC-NARIC website.
In 2015, the Swedish Government decided on a national qualifications framework (SeQF), based on the European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning (EQF). The SeQF has eight levels that are in accordance with the EQF levels. Higher education qualifications are at levels six to eight. For more information, please visit the SeQF website (in Swedish).
Sweden has a system of credits (högskolepoäng); a normal 40-week academic year corresponds to 60 credits. The system is compatible with ECTS credits.
There is no national grading system in Sweden. Higher education institutions may determine which grading system is to be used. No overall grade is awarded for a degree and students are not ranked. For example, Grade Point Average (GPA) and other ranking systems are not used in Sweden.
Access and admission
There are general and specific entry requirements for access to higher education within all cycles. The specific entry requirements vary according to the field of higher education and/or should be essential for students to be able to benefit from the course or study programme. The number of places is limited on all study programmes and courses.
The general entry requirements for first-cycle studies are the same for all higher education. General entry requirements can be attained by completing an upper-secondary school programme, via adult education at upper-secondary school level or the applicants achieving a comparable level of learning outcomes through other education, practical experience or other circumstances.
The general entry requirements for second-cycle studies are a first-cycle qualification of at least 180 credits, or a corresponding foreign qualification. An applicant may also be accepted on the basis of a comparable level of learning outcomes obtained through other education, practical experience or other circumstances. The general entry requirements for some specific second-cycle professional qualifications are a prior specific qualification or a specific professional registration.
The general entry requirements for third-cycle studies are a second-cycle qualification, or completed courses worth at least 240 credits (of which 60 credits are at second-cycle level) or the equivalent level of knowledge acquired in Sweden or abroad.
All courses, study programmes and qualifications are on one of three levels: first-, second- or third-cycle. In the Higher Education Ordinance, the Government has determined which qualifications may be awarded, as well as their scope, requirements and intended learning outcomes. There are three categories of qualifications: general qualifications, qualifications in the fine, applied and performing arts and professional qualifications.
First-cycle (SeQF/EQF 6)
Högskoleexamen (Higher Education Diploma) requires 120 credits and an independent project (degree project).
Kandidatexamen (Degree of Bachelor) requires 180 credits. At least 90 credits must be completed in the main field of study, including an independent project (degree project) worth 15 credits.
Second-cycle (SeQF/EQF 7)
Magisterexamen (Degree of Master (60 credits)) requires 60 credits. At least 30 credits must be completed in the main field of study, including an independent project (degree project) worth 15 credits. In addition, the student must normally hold a kandidatexamen, or a professional degree of at least 180 credits, or an equivalent foreign degree.
Masterexamen (Degree of Master (120 credits)) requires 120 credits. At least 60 credits must be completed in the main field of study, including an independent project (degree project) worth at least 30 credits. In addition, the student must normally hold a kandidatexamen, or a professional degree of at least 180 credits or an equivalent foreign degree.
Third-cycle (SeQF/EQF 8)
Licentiatexamen (Degree of Licentiate) requires at least 120 credits, including a research thesis worth at least 60 credits. A higher education institution may decide that a licentiatexamen can be awarded as a separate qualification or as a step on the way to doktorsexamen.
Doktorsexamen (Degree of Doctor) requires 240 credits, including a research thesis (doctoral thesis) worth at least 120 credits. The thesis must be presented at a public defence.
Qualifications in the fine, applied and performing arts
Qualifications in the fine, applied and performing arts are awarded at all three cycles and corresponding SeQF levels.
At first-cycle level:
- konstnärlig högskoleexamen (Higher Education Diploma (120 credits)) and
- konstnärlig kandidatexamen (Degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts (180 credits)).
At second-cycle level:
- konstnärlig magisterexamen (Degree of Master of Fine Arts (60 credits)) and
- konstnärlig masterexamen (Degree of Master of Fine Arts (120 credits)).
Two third-cycle qualifications are awarded:
- konstnärlig licentiatexamen (Degree of Licentiate (at least 120 credits)) and
- konstnärlig doktorsexamen (Degree of Doctor (240 credits)).
Professional qualifications are offered at either first- or second-cycle level and corresponding SeQF levels. These qualifications may stretch over two cycles and are awarded in areas that include engineering, health care, agriculture, law, and education.
Professional qualifications are regulated by national legislation and are considered regulated education subject to the Professional Qualifications Directive 2005/36/EC.
- Degree of Bachelor*, 180–210 hp/ECTS credits
- Higher Education Diploma*, 90–120 hp/ECTS credits
- Higher Education Certificate*, 60 hp/ECTS credits
*Degrees, diplomas and certificates within different professional fields.
- Degree of Master*, 60 hp/ECTS, 240–360 hp/ECTS credits
- Postgraduate Diploma*, 60–90 hp/ECTS credits
*Degrees and diplomas within different professional fields.
Titles of qualifications
Translations into English of all titles of qualifications are regulated at the national level. Higher education institutions may decide to add a prefix to a qualification title (for example filosofie kandidatexamen or medicine doktorsexamen) and add a main field of studies (for example civilingenjörsexamen i maskinteknik).
The Diploma Supplement (DS) is a document describing the qualification it is issued with and the education system to which the qualification belongs. It is a transparency tool meant to facilitate the understanding and recognition of qualifications. It is issued, automatically or upon request, in the countries that participate in the Bologna process.
From 1 July 2007, a diploma supplement shall be issued with all Swedish qualifications and for all levels of higher education.
The DS was initiated by UNESCO and revised jointly by UNESCO, the European Commission and the Council of Europe. An updated version was adopted by the Lisbon Recognition Convention Committee in 2007 and 2019 respectively. DS is one of the five Europass transparency tools.
The Swedish Council for Higher Education (UHR) determines what a Diploma Supplement should include (Ordinance (2012:172)).