Renowned for flat-pack furniture and the Nobel Prize, the Scandinavian country also has a long and proud history of academic excellence. Discover what it’s like to study in Sweden
Many courses at Swedish universities enjoy strong links with industry, which is good news when it comes to work experience opportunities and your career prospects.
The majority of Sweden’s 10-million strong population speak fluent English making it easy to settle in. You’ll quickly adjust to the country’s laid back nature. Everything comes in moderation – you’ll be pushed academically, but in return will regularly enjoy fika – a Swedish custom allowing colleagues, friends or family to catch up over coffee and cake.
In your free time you’ll be able to hike Kungsleden – the country’s longest hiking trail, visit Drottningholm Palace – home to the King and Queen, explore Gotland – the largest of Sweden’s islands and a popular summer tourist destination as well as experience the Northern Lights in Lapland, the country’s northernmost province.
Sweden is home to 39 universities. Of the eight appearing in the QS World University Rankings 2020, two are inside the top 100. These are Lund University, in 92nd position, and KTH Royal Institute of Technology, in joint 98th.
Top student cities include Stockholm, Gothenburg, Lund and Uppsala.
Programmes are offered at two main types of institution in Sweden:
- universities (universitet) provide degrees at Bachelors, Masters and PhD level.
- university colleges (högskola) offer courses at undergraduate and Masters level only.
Despite the difference, universities are considered no more prestigious than university colleges. A Bachelors received from a university has the same weighting as a Bachelors received from a university college, and the two types of institution are both regarded as universities.
To browse all Swedish universities see, Study in Sweden – Universities.
The majority of institutions are government funded, but some are supported privately. These independent providers typically offer degrees in a specialist subject – usually in psychotherapy and healthcare.
The Swedish academic calendar runs from August to mid-January (autumn semester) and mid-January to the beginning of June (spring semester).
Degree courses in Sweden
A large number of degree programmes are offered in English. They require three years of full-time study, and to apply you’ll need to have successfully completed upper secondary school (sixth form or college).
The structure of a Swedish Bachelors degree differs from its UK counterpart. At some universities, programmes are structured as a series of courses (modules), studied one at a time and examined before the next one begins. Other universities follow the UK system of studying a number of courses simultaneously with exams taking place in the summer.
As well as these exams, throughout a Bachelors degree you’ll be assessed with written and oral tests, group work and lab work (depending on your course). Most programmes end with the submission of a thesis.
Search for Bachelors programmes at Study in Sweden – Programmes.
There’s plenty more choice when it comes to postgraduate courses – you can study a variety of subjects, with more than 900 courses delivered in English.
These take one to two years of full-time study, and are comprised of advanced coursework followed by the completion and submission of a research-based thesis.
To be eligible for a Masters degree, you’ll need to have successfully complete upper secondary school, and hold an undergraduate degree or equivalent.
Look for Masters courses at Study in Sweden – Programmes.
Swedish universities don’t offer taught PhD courses. They’re largely research-based, although you’ll also need to attend seminars or short courses, and they require a minimum of four years’ full-time study.
In this time, you’ll produce a dissertation, composed of either an extended essay or a collection of smaller pieces of scholarly work, and will be assigned an individual tutor to oversee your studies. Assessment takes places as a public defence of your dissertation.
Although the majority of PhDs are completed independently, it’s likely you’ll partake in group work in the technology, natural sciences and medical fields.
PhDs are typically offered as paid positions – you’ll be employed by the university as a researcher. You won’t be subject to tuition fees and will instead receive a monthly salary to support your studies.
PhD positions are usually advertised by Swedish universities and you’ll apply directly to the institution. Some universities have fixed application dates, while others admit students on an ongoing basis.
Students attending a UK university can take part in the European Union’s (EU) education, training and youth support programme Erasmus+ (confirmed for the 2020/21 year). The scheme offers study, training, work experience and voluntary placements to students in partner countries. Opportunities last from three months to one academic year.
Financial support is available through the Erasmus+ initiative to any UK public, private or not-for-profit organisation actively involved in education or training.
Your university must have a formal agreement with a partner university in another EU country, so be sure to check that your university is involved in the programme and offers the scheme in your subject. Speak to the Erasmus+ coordinator at your university about any opportunities in Sweden.
If you’re from an EU/EEA/Nordic country or Switzerland – you won’t incur any tuition fees studying in Sweden. You’ll only be required to pay a students’ union fee, which varies between 50 and 350 SEK (around £4 to £28) per semester.
Applicants from all other countries are required to pay tuition fees as well as this union fee. Study in Sweden estimates the average cost of a Masters to be 129,000 SEK per year (nearly £10,600). However, averages vary between subject disciplines:
- Social sciences and humanities students can expect to pay between 80,000 SEK and 110,000 SEK (£6,558 to £9,017) per year.
- For technical and natural science programmes, this rises to between 120,000 SEK and 145,000 (£9,837 to £11,886) per year.
- Architecture and design students face the highest fees, at a suggested 190,000 to 270,000 SEK (£15,575 to £22,133).
Non-EU/EEA/Nordic/Swiss students will also be subject to a university application fee of 900 SEK (almost £74).
It’s important to factor in living costs to your budget. Study in Sweden recommends a monthly sum of 8,370 SEK (around £686), to cover food, accommodation, travel, phone and internet use as well as other luxuries. Your personal lifestyle, type of accommodation and location will affect how much you’ll need – living in Stockholm or Gothenburg, for example, will be more expensive than some of Sweden’s smaller towns.
Funding to study in Sweden
A range of scholarships are available to international students studying at all levels of higher education. Due to the lack of tuition fees, it’s normal for Swedish students to complete their studies without scholarships or funding.
For international students there are two main sources of funding:
- Swedish Institute Study Scholarships (SISS) – for Masters courses starting in the autumn semester. They cover tuition fees, living expenses and travel costs. They’re open to students from 140 countries that can fulfil a range of criteria, such as having the ability to demonstrate previous leadership and work experience. Visit the website to view the full list of entry requirements.
- Swedish universities – the majority of the country’s institutions provide scholarships for international students. Contact individual universities for more information.
For more information about scholarships, awards and funding, visit:
There is no legal limit to the number of hours an international student can work during their studies in Sweden so if you don’t secure a scholarship getting a job to subsidise study costs may be an option.
As an EU citizen, you’re permitted to live in any EU country while studying as long as you:
- are enrolled at an approved university/other educational institution
- are studying for more than three months
- have comprehensive health insurance cover
- have sufficient income (from any source) to live without needing income support.
Because of this, you won’t need a permit or visa to study in Sweden. If you’re staying for longer than 12 months, you should register with the Swedish Tax Agency.
Swiss students are able to enter Sweden without a visa, but will need to register for a residence permit for any stay exceeding three months. Visit the Swedish Migration Agency – Residence permits for Swiss citizens for more information.
Those from a non-EU, EEA or Nordic country will need a visa to study in Sweden. If you intend to stay for longer than three months you’ll need a residence permit. To apply for one of these you’ll need to:
- Pay your first tuition fee instalment
- Submit supporting documentation such as copies of your passport and university admission letter, as well as proof that you can financially support yourself
- complete an online application form and pay the application fee.
If you intend the live in Sweden for more than a year you’ll also be required to register in the Swedish Population Register.
How to apply
For undergraduate and Masters degrees, you’ll submit your application through Sweden’s central applications portal universityadmissions.se. You can apply for up to eight Bachelors programmes in one cycle, or four Masters degrees.
As well as completing an online application form, you’ll also need to submit documentation that proves your eligibility to study in the country. This includes:
- certificates of diplomas
- transcripts of any previous completed qualifications
- evidence of your language proficiency (where appropriate)
- a copy of your passport.
See the Swedish Council for Higher Education for more information on having foreign qualifications officially evaluated.
Thanks to the range of courses offered in English at all levels, you won’t need to be fluent in Swedish to study in the country. If you’re planning to study a course in Swedish, you’ll need to prove that your skills are equivalent to secondary school level – you can do this by taking the Test in Swedish for university studies (Tisus).
If you’re hoping to study a course in English and you’re a non-native speaker, you can demonstrate your proficiency by taking either the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
Sweden is a beautiful country in its own right, but that’s certainly not the main reason students are flocking to the country for their higher education.
Over the years, universities in the country have been steadily building their reputation as great educational providers that prepare students for the future.
If you are a student hoping to pursue your higher education in Europe, here are 11 reasons why Sweden can be a great option for you.
# 1 Affordable tuition and low living expenses
While the tuition in Sweden varies from university to university, the average fee for a master’s program is USD 14,500/year. The bachelor’s programs are generally less expensive.
For an idea of the range of tuition fees for various subjects, have a look at these figures.
- Social Sciences and Humanities: USD 9,000 – 12,500/year
- Engineering, Computer Science, and Natural Sciences: USD 13,500 – 16,000/year
- Architecture and Design: USD 21,500 – 30,500 /year
An average monthly student budget is about USD 900 per month. Of course, your costs will vary depending on where you live and your personal preferences.
The university application fee is $100.
#2 Scholarships abound!
The Swedish government has put aside funds specifically for two scholarship programs. Students can apply for scholarships based on their financial situation, nationality and merit. These grants, which are set aside by the Swedish government, greatly increase your chances of getting a scholarship to pursue the program of your choice.
Several Swedish universities offer a range of different scholarship programs for international students to help cover tuition fees or living costs.
Here is a list of universities that have scholarships for international students. In order to find out more about university scholarships and how to apply for them, visit these universities’ websites.
#3 Work while you study
You will be able to work while you study in Sweden. Part-time jobs are available and there are consultancies that will help you find these jobs.
While there is no limit to the number of hours an international student can work for, it is important to set aside adequate hours to study and work on assignments.
#4 Work after you complete your studies
If you wish to work after you complete your higher studies, you can apply to extend your residence permit to give yourself more time to look for work. Sweden gives you at least 6 months to do this. The work permit is Schengen in nature, so you will be able to look for work anywhere within the European Union.
#5 Learn skills for a global career
Many degree programs in Sweden include internships, which are a great way to get real-world experience while also enabling you to build your professional network.
Sweden is home to some of the largest number of MNCs in the world. Several leading companies such as IKEA, TetraPak, Volvo, Ericsson, AstraZeneca and H&M are from Sweden. An internship or full-time position at any of these companies is sought after by most students.
Swedish universities focus on helping you learn skills that you will need to succeed in a global career. Specifically, these universities foster creativity along with other in-demand skills such as how to combine theory and practice, and how to navigate complex uncertain situations.
#6 Great quality education at some of the best universities in the world
Sweden has a long and proud history of academic excellence. Despite its relatively small population, it’s home to some of the world’s best universities. The entire Swedish higher education system is ranked as one of the best in the world. Several Swedish universities are ranked by the Times Higher Education and the Academic Ranking of World Universities as being among the world’s best.
Home to the Nobel Prize, it comes as no surprise that many of the professors at Swedish universities are very well qualified. The majority of these professors have quite a few research papers under their belts. You know that as a student, you will be in good hands and can count on receiving a great education by global standards.
#7 Innovative learning
Universities in Sweden free students from outdated and inefficient rote learning. Swedish education is designed to train the world’s future problem solvers and leaders.
With a strong emphasis on sustainability, students are encouraged to develop a holistic way of looking at problems, while thinking creatively to arrive at solutions to these problems.
One of the ways this is done, is by reducing the number of classroom sessions to four days a week, while students are encouraged to spend the rest of their time in group sessions, researching in the library and working on assignments.
#8 Abundant natural beauty and emphasis on sustainability
The university campuses in Sweden are exceedingly beautiful!
Sweden’s efforts in environmental conservation, which earned it the title of the most sustainable country, has ensured that the country continues to be as beautiful as it was, while several other countries become urban jungles.
Universities in Sweden are renowned for their cultural and social diversity. This is far from surprising considering ‘Business Insider’ named Sweden as the most equal country in the world.
#10 Programs taught in English
Sweden regularly ranks as one of the top countries in the world for non-native speakers of English.
Courses are taught in English, so you won’t have to worry about problems arising from a lack of knowledge of the Swedish language. In fact, the Swedish people you meet outside the university are comfortable speaking English as well.
#11 Great quality of life
Sweden is clean and safe, and the standard of living is high.
Sweden’s public transport – extensive network of buses, trains, subways, trams, boats, planes and more – can take you anywhere you want to go, car-free.
The Swedish welfare system brings many benefits to employees. These include free healthcare, sick leave, child care, education and 18 months of paid parental leave for each child. There are also state subsidies in a range of areas to ensure that the quality of life is exceptional.
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