Briefly about higher education in Sweden

  • Education in Sweden is heavily subsidized by the Swedish government. The Nobel Committee is located here, so the universities’ scientific activity is at the highest level. This is especially true for the natural sciences and medicine.
  • Price. Tuition fees range from 8,000 USD to 25,000 USD per year. You can study in both Swedish and English, but the cost will be about the same. Doctoral studies in both languages ​​are free for everyone.
  • Requirements for admission depend on the university: often you need to take a SAT or SAT subject for a bachelor's degree, which makes the admission process much more difficult than in many other European countries. This also applies to the level of the English language: IELTS from 6.5 for undergraduate and from 7.0 for graduate. There are more than 1000 undergraduate programs in English. For programs in Swedish, you need to take the TISUS or Svenska 3 test (Svenska som andraspråk 3).
  • Preparatory programs in Sweden are relatively young, but it is already possible to enter the Foundation in some prestigious public universities. To get into the program in fall, you need to have time to submit documents before mid-January.
  • Visa. You need to have at least 9,567 USD on your account to receive it.
  • Employment. Graduates of Swedish universities can extend their residence permit for one year to find work.

Higher education in Sweden is among the top 20 strongest education systems in the world[1], and the combination of informal and relaxed learning experience with a culture of inventiveness and innovation makes Sweden a popular choice among international students. Other factors of the country's attractiveness for study are its internationality — out of 10 million people in Sweden, over 10% are immigrants; language accessibility — universities offer more than 1000 programs in English; and the richness of nature — dark and cold winters in Sweden can scare off students, but breathtaking views of the majestic mountains and beaches, impressive waterfalls and lakes, forests and national parks are worth freezing yourself for 3-4 months a year.

Advantages of education in Sweden

  • Interesting studies. Basically, the educational process in Sweden consists of group projects, work on case studies and assignments aimed at logic reasoning and independent research. Students are expected to ask questions and challenge the status quo. In the classroom, intellectual disputes are encouraged not only between students but also with professors. However, it is worth remembering that in Sweden it is necessary to respectfully and openly treat other people's point of view. Through all of this, students learn to think creatively, critically and independently.
  • Informal relationship. At first, addressing professors by name and informally may seem unusual for visitors. However, this open relationship between educators and students fosters creative thinking. And the sense of equality and informality in Swedish classrooms allows students to feel at ease and reach for knowledge without fear of judgment.
  • English language. Sweden offers over 1000 degree programs in almost any field of study entirely in English. There will be no problems with the language in everyday life. Although Swedish is the country's official language, Swedes were ranked the 2nd in the world according to the English Proficiency Index 2019. However, it is worth noting that signs in cities and supermarkets, instructions, menus and announcements at public transport stations are only in Swedish.
  • Research potential. Regardless of the student's country of citizenship, PhD programs in Sweden are free. Moreover, there is also financial aid for PhD candidates in the form of salaries and scholarships. Most of the research conducted in Sweden (at least 70%) is privately funded. These investments have helped companies such as ABB, Ericsson, Sandvik and the Volvo Group to become leaders in their respective fields. The state funds the remaining 30% of research[2]. The study itself in doctoral studies is interesting, creativity and new ideas are highly valued here. It goes without saying that Sweden founded the Nobel Prize and later became the homeland of 32 laureates. This reflects the importance of research excellence and innovation in the country. An active research policy has allowed Sweden to take a leading position in areas such as environmental technology and natural sciences. The country’s specialists also have a high level of expertise in nanotechnology.
  • Ecological paradise. Sweden takes a responsible approach to environmental protection. The country, especially Stockholm, has a multitude of sustainability policies. Apart from the obvious separate garbage collection and recycling, the Swish app that allows to pay for purchases, is common in the country: you can hardly find cash here, and the energy of food and other waste is used to heat houses, move buses and fuel taxi fleets. In Sweden, you can find vintage shops, second-hand shops and vegan cafes on every corner, and bike lanes are never empty — even food delivery services use bicycles.
  • Means of transportation. Getting around Sweden is fairly easy: trains, buses and bicycles are always at the disposal of the people of the country. And students are twice as lucky: they get good discounts on public transportation. However, bicycles are the preferred choice for most students: they are environmentally friendly, and once purchased, daily transportation costs drop to zero. When it comes to long distance travel, train tickets are cheaper than in other European countries.
Disadvantages of education in Sweden

  • Responsibility for your own studies. A student's independence starts in the mind and ends in the schedule and administrative matters. Therefore, a visitor might have to adjust their thinking to the Swedish education system and take full responsibility for their studies. Local professors do not supervise or mentor students. Here lectures and seminars are not held every day, sometimes only a couple of hours a week. In the rest of their free time, students should be disciplined enough to read, work on group projects and homework. The schedule depends on the direction of study. Technical majors spend most of their time in classrooms and laboratories, while liberal arts students mostly work on their own or in groups.
  • Visa difficulties. Despite the detailed instructions on how to apply for a student visa from the Swedish Migration Agency, it is not uncommon for applicants to be rejected. The reason for this is often incorrectly collected documents. The Swedish authorities strictly follow the application guidelines and errors made here are critical and cannot be corrected. Therefore, students are strongly advised to contact a specialist or to study the migration site extremely carefully.
  • Obtaining a debit card. Having a bank account in Sweden makes the life of its owner way easier. However, the process of obtaining the card is relatively long and tedious. Here banks are open only on weekdays, from 10 am to 3 pm, in big cities — banks serve customers until 6 pm To open an account, you need to obtain a Swedish personal ID number called personnummer (the process takes about a month), and make an appointment. The card and pin code are not issued at the same time, so you will have to visit the bank several times.
  • Search of accomodations. Finding housing for a student in Sweden is a headache. Especially in large and student cities such as Stockholm, Gothenburg, Lund and Uppsala. It's easier to find housing in smaller cities. Universities provide dorms, but to get into one, you need to register for the waiting list. Even when renting an apartment from private landlords fill an application, moreover, it is paid. In this case, the apartments are allocated depending on how long you have been in the queue. The wait for housing can take several years, depending on the city. The fastest way to rent an apartment is to sublease. But here, too, there are some peculiarities. There are many scammers in the real estate market, so be careful not to fall for them. Detailed information on student accommodation in Sweden can be found here.
  • Expensive life. Prices for food, housing and other expenses in the country are quite high: Sweden ranks 23rd among the most expensive countries in the world[3]. The average student budget for a month is about 783 USD (approximately 866 USD). However, after a while, the newcomers settle down and find different ways to save money. For example, they cook at home, use student discounts, shop in thrift-shops and do not buy, but borrow books necessary for study in libraries and from friends.

Cost and structure of education in Sweden

Type of educationAgeDurationMin. costAvg. costMin. language requirementsExams
Language schools6+1-52 weeks517 USD/month1,103 USD/week--
Secondary education6+1-12 yearsFree3,677 USD/year


University preparation16+1-2 semesters155000
17,099 USD/yearB2IELTS 6.0
Bachelor's17+3 yearsFree1,195 USD/yearC1IELTS 6.5 / TOEFL 90
Master's20+2 yearsFree13,789 USD/yearC1IELTS 6.5 / TOEFL 90
MBA20+1 year7,465 USD/year18,386 USD/yearC1IELTS 6.5 / TOEFL 90
Doctoral20+3+ yearsFreeFreeC1IELTS 6.5 / TOEFL 90
Additional expenses

ExpensesAverage cost
Books69 USD/month
Registration fees83 USD
Residence permit138 USD
Accommodation383 USD/month
Insurance156 USD/year
Meals184 USD/month
Public transportation51 USD/month

All prices and requirements must be checked on the university websites.

Options and schemes for admission to Sweden

Options for admission to Sweden
Need help with admission?

Admission and requirements in universities in Sweden

Swedish universities offer more than 1000 study programs in 39 universities of the country. For admission to Swedish universities, documents are submitted to the central education system University Admissions. It collects and processes data about each applicant. International students have the option to apply for admission in two rounds. Non-EU candidates are advised not to apply for the second round.

  • The first round runs for both the fall and spring semesters. International students are strongly encouraged to apply for the first rounds as admission decisions are made several months before the start of their studies. This gives you enough time to obtain a residence permit, organize housing and plan all other aspects of moving to Sweden;
  • The second round runs for fall and spring semesters. Here admission decisions are made later than in the first round, almost before the start of the semester.

As a rule, the English-language programs are available for admission only during the first round. Often the programs offered in the first round are no longer available for the second round, and vice versa.

Almost all English-language programs start in the fall semester (August/September). Applications are usually submitted between mid-October and January. The spring semester programs admit students from June to August. On this site, you can find out detailed information about the deadlines.

For admission you will need:

The documents must be submitted in the original language with an official translation into Swedish.

Some universities may require additional information from the applicant, such as completing a written assignment.

Admission results usually become known at the beginning of May. If several educational institutions are ready to accept a student, then it is necessary to promptly refuse all offers except the desired one. Otherwise, the candidate may be considered frivolous and quickly struck off the list of applicants. This approach helps Swedish universities effectively manage the number of places.

Legalization and recognition of a diploma in Sweden

To enter the universities of Sweden, it is usually enough to translate the certificate/diploma into English or Swedish and notarize it. Legalization or apostille are optional. However, you should check the requirements for documents issued in your country on the websites of consulates and universities.

To apostille documents issued in Sweden, you need to contact a public notary. The average cost of apostille affixing is 23 USD. If a document has a stamp with an apostille attached, it is exempt from all forms of authentication, that is, further verification and legalization are not required.

Foundation programs in Sweden

Foundation or preparatory programs are not very common in Sweden. Those present on the educational market are intended to prepare foreign students for bachelor’s studies in mathematics, physics, and geography in some Swedish universities. These programs improve English proficiency, improve knowledge in specialized subjects (for example, mathematics, physics), and hone academic skills.

There are also preparatory programs for the Pre-Masters. As a rule, they are intended for future students of the faculties of engineering, sciences (biology, chemistry, physics, etc.) and business. The main criteria for admission to preparatory programs are knowledge of the language at a level sufficient for learning (IELTS 6.0) and completed previous education.

In addition, there are three-month summer programs for those who have already been admitted to the university, for example, at Lund University. They allow students to practice academic English, develop the skills needed to study at a Swedish university, and get to know the country's academic culture.

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Vocational education in Sweden

Higher vocational education programs (Yrkeshögskolan, HVE) are carried out in close cooperation between educational institutions, employers, and industry. HVE is being implemented in universities and private educational institutions.

The largest number of programs are offered in finance and business management. The rest of the disciplines are sales, manufacturing technology, IT, tourism, health care, and agriculture. HVE flexibly adapts to the changing labor market: new programs often appear, and irrelevant ones are suspended.

Partner companies are actively involved in the planning and execution of the HVE. For example, company employees give lectures, organizations themselves participate in projects, and offer jobs. Here internships are called LIA (lärande i arbete) — training in the working environment. About 25% of the entire educational process is allocated to it.

The duration of the HVE is usually 1-3 years. Students in all programs can receive financial assistance from the Swedish Council for Learning Support (CSN). For a grant, foreigners must have a permanent residence permit and reside in Sweden. Some HVE programs charge tuition fees, although most are free.

Qualifications at the end of HVE:

DurationTitle in SwedishTitle in English
1 yearYrkeshögskoleexamenHigher Vocational Education Diploma
2 yearsKvalificerad yrkeshögskoleexamenAdvanced Higher Vocational Education Diploma

Here you can find a list of HVE programs.

The admission criteria and selection process vary depending on the program. For details, the applicant should contact the educational institution directly. Typically HVE programs require:

  • Secondary education certificate equivalent:
    • High school certificate;
    • Swedish or foreign qualifications equivalent to the one mentioned above;
    • Diplomas of residents of Denmark, Finland, Iceland or Norway;
    • Swedish or foreign qualifications, or practical work experience;
  • Program-specific requirements. In many areas, HVEs require prior knowledge of the subjects of study (for example, specific professional experience);
  • Knowledge of Swedish. Often educational institutions conduct their own tests;
  • A written test or interview is possible.

After graduating from vocational education institutions, students can immediately start looking for a job or continue their studies in the 1st year (specify) of the bachelor’s program. Read more about HVE here.

Bachelor’s in Sweden — Undergraduate

Universities in Sweden offer over 100 bachelor's programs in English. They cover a wide range of disciplines except for medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and teaching. However, foreign applicants who speak Swedish can enroll in these specialties. Usually, the study lasts for 3 years and is worth 180 ECTS credits. Already at this stage students of Swedish universities have not only greater freedom, but also greater responsibility for learning.

Basic requirements for admission are as follows:

  • Certificate of secondary general education and transcript of grades;
  • Language certificate (IELTS/TOEFL);
  • Special subject requirements for certain programs (mathematics, science, languages).

To be accepted, a candidate must meet the admission requirements on the basis of which the overall assessment is made. It is used to rank applicants who have applied for the same program. The selection of applicants for the first round of the fall semester takes place in March-April. Sometimes it is impossible for international students to provide a final transcript from secondary school during this period. And by the time the student finishes his studies, almost all places allocated for international students have already been taken. Therefore, in order to submit documents, it is important to have a certificate with a transcript in March-April. Otherwise, the candidate can:

  • Wait and apply for the first round for spring semester admission. But it is worth noting that much fewer programs start in the spring semester, especially in English;
  • Apply for the first round of the fall semester the following year.

In addition to the standard ones, there are professional bachelor's programs. They are offered in the following disciplines: engineering, health, agriculture, law, education, etc. Programs leading to professional qualifications last 3-3.5 years and can combine two cycles: bachelor's and master's degrees.

Master's in Sweden — Graduate / Postgraduate

Education in Sweden is aligned with the Bologna system. This means that Master's programs follow an international format: students attend lectures, work on projects individually and in teams, and conduct independent research.

Master's degree in Sweden lasts 1-2 years (60 ECTS — magisterexamen / 120 ECTS — masterexamen). Of these, 75% of the time is devoted to studying and 25% to work on a dissertation. In some universities, scientific work is closely related to companies.

Requirements for admission:

  • Bachelor's degree in a related specialty + transcript with grades (original + translation);
  • Language certificate (IELTS / TOEFL, CAE / CPE);
  • Separate requirements of specific programs and universities (for example, a motivation letter).

The documents must be translated into English or Swedish and notarized.

Applications are submitted through a centralized admission system. Application deadlines for most fall semester programs end in mid-January.

There is also a professional master's degree in addition to the standard one. It lasts 4.5–5 years (240–300 ECTS). Programs are offered in health, law, agriculture, engineering, education.

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Doctoral studies in Sweden — Postgraduate

Types of Doctorate in Sweden:

  • Standard PhD program lasts for 4 years (240 ECTS), includes scientific research;
  • Licentiate degree lasts for 2 years, with a shorter and less ambitious thesis compared to the PhD (120 ECTS). The Swedish licentiate is similar to the British Master of Philosophy (MPhil). Some students initially go to study for a licentiate degree before moving to the 3rd year of the full PhD course.

In Swedish PhDs, the emphasis is on independent research that should contribute to science. Future candidates write a dissertation under the supervision of two or more scientific advisers and then orally defend it in front of the examination committee.

Swedish universities are free to set their own admission requirements for doctoral studies. Admission to PhD studies is carried out by the teaching councils of universities. Applicants must have:

  • Bachelor's or Master's degree in the same or related field of study. Bachelor’s are allowed to admission, but preference is given to master’s graduates, especially when granting funding;
  • Financing for the entire period of the program;
  • Research experience. It may just be a dissertation project of a previous degree, but it is important to show readiness for independent research. Therefore, master’s who have conducted research on the subject of a future dissertation is more likely to be accepted than a bachelor’s who often does not have research experience;
  • Knowledge of the language. IELTS/TOEFL results if the applicant has not completed previous education in English;
  • Interview.

There is no centralized system for submitting documents to doctoral studies, so those who wish to pursue a PhD should track the information on the websites of Swedish universities. Applications are made directly to universities.

Before that, it is advisable to contact the faculty and discuss plans for a future dissertation. So you understand how scientific research is carried out at the department, what projects are being conducted or planned for the future, and whether or not there is funding available. It is worth noting that not only universities themselves can invite you to study, but also practicing professors who are looking for help with their research.

Search for doctoral programs and admission requirements on university websites. PhD programs in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) are often listed as separate projects. Requirements and recommendations are established on a case-by-case basis. PhDs in Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences often have to come up with project ideas. The candidate needs to find a research advisor and present a strong research proposal.

Academic career in Sweden

Jobs are posted by universities on their respective websites. Universities are open to international scholars, but it is advisable for the applicant to know people working in an educational institution or studying his/her discipline. They can also be hired with just the knowledge of English, but foreigners are advised to know Swedish.

Academic positions at universities in Sweden:

RankDescriptionQualificationsSimilar positions
AdjunktTeaching position, often part-timeBachelor +Assistant professor in the USA, Lecturer in England
ForskarassistentResearch position, usually after a PhDPhDNon-tenured assistant professor in the USA
Lektor / UniversitetslektorTeaching and research positionPhDAssistant professor in the USA, Senior Lecturer in England
Docent Chief scientific adviser of doctoral students, member of the PhD examination committeePhDAssociate professor in the USA, Reader / First lecturer in England
Professor Has many publications, success in teaching and scientific leadership of PhD candidatesPhDTenured, Senior, Full professor in the USA

All positions involve both teaching and research. Salaries for 2019 range 3,677-6,435 USD per month[4]. More information can be found here.

Scholarships in Sweden

There are 2 main sources of funding for international students:

  • The Swedish Institute (SI) is the government agency, which receives annual funding for scholarships for foreign students on a competitive basis. Each financial support program is designed for candidates from specific countries applying for master's programs of the fall semester. Please note that scholarships are not available for either bachelor’s studies or programs starting in the spring semester. In 2020, the Swedish Institute awarded about 400 scholarships, one of which is the Visby program.
  • University funding. Most Swedish universities offer scholarships for students. Applications are submitted directly to a specific university according to its terms and requirements. A list of Swedish universities and links to their websites can be found here. You can find grants and scholarships from educational institutions in a special search engine.

PhD programs at Sweedish universities are free for all students, regardless of country of citizenship.

Financial aid for doctoral studies in Sweden

Doctoral programs are free for all students regardless of citizenship. The rest of the costs should be covered by the candidate, however, there are some funding options:

  • Paid Studentships combine paid employment, for example, teaching or scientific research, with a doctoral thesis. When such a vacancy is open, universities publicly announce it. Salary (training grant, utbildningsbidrag) is about 1,595 USD per month (before taxes);
  • PhD funding. There are scholarships for doctoral students in Sweden to help cover the expenses along with Paid Studentships. The main source of funding is the Swedish Institute (SI). It offers scholarships for students from specific regions including Turkey, the Balkans, and the Baltics. Other funding can be provided by universities or specific academic and research organizations.

Student visa to Sweden

Basically, EU/EEA nationals do not have to apply for a student visa or a residence permit. However, for studies, which exceed one year, they are required to register with the Swedish Migration Agency and obtain a personal identity number within three months after arrival.

Students from outside the EU/EEA, who plan to study for more than 3 months, must apply for a residence permit (not a visa) before arriving in the country. Here you should pay extra attention to your timing since the process of obtaining a residence permit can take several months. As soon as the student pays the first tuition fee, it is advisable to immediately start submitting documents. Here you can calculate how long it will take to process the application. To obtain a residence permit, you need:

  • A valid passport and a copy;
  • Application form 113011;
  • Letter of admission from the university, inviting you for full-time study;
  • Proof of funds (783 USD per month) or the availability of a grant/scholarship;
  • Medical insurance;
  • Confirmation of tuition fee payment (not always needed, depending on a university).

An applicant from a non-EU country or Switzerland submits documents to the Swedish embassy/consulate in their country. Before applying for a residence permit, you must contact the Swedish embassy/consulate.

The cost of a residence permit for people over 18 years old is 138 USD, for those who are younger — 69 USD. Sometimes payments are only accepted in cash. More information can be found on the website of the Swedish Migration Agency and on the website of the Swedish Embassy.

If studies last more than 1 year, you must register with the Swedish Population Register. By doing this, the student receives a Swedish personal identification number — personnummer.

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Opportunity to work while studying

All international students with no regard to nationality are allowed to work in Sweden. You do not need a separate permit for employment. There are no restrictions on working hours, but university studies usually take a long time: at least 40 hours a week. In addition, it is quite difficult to find a part-time job in Sweden, since most part-time jobs require knowledge of the Swedish language. When looking for work, you must have a residence permit card for the employer. Students can work in supermarkets, restaurants, bars, delivery services, cafes. The average hourly rate in Sweden is around 16 USD[5].

Opportunity to stay and immigration to Sweden

Graduates of Swedish universities can apply for an extension of their residence permit for another 12 months. During this time, young professionals find work or open their own companies.

To obtain a residence permit after completing your studies, you must:

  • Reside in Sweden;
  • Apply before the expiration of the current residence permit;
  • Have a passport that is valid for the entire period of stay in Sweden;
  • Complete higher education program that lasted at least two semesters;
  • Hold a student residence permit;
  • Plan your job search or explore the opportunities of starting your own business;
  • Provide a proof of funds;
  • Have medical insurance.

The documents must be translated into Swedish or English. The residence permit application is filled out online. Detailed information is available on the website of the Swedish Migration Agency.

The cost for adults is 138 USD, for those under 18 — 69 USD. If a graduate has found a job within 12 months, he needs to apply for a work permit.

Job prospects and opportunities

For several centuries, Sweden has been the economic center of Scandinavia, and this fact has determined the current state of the country's economy. The average salary level in Sweden is consistently held at 11th place in the world. The main resources of the state's economy are timber, iron ore, and hydropower. The main industries include mechanical engineering, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, industrial machinery, chemical goods and household appliances, forestry, and metallurgy. Sweden is the birthplace of many well-known companies such as Ericsson, IKEA, ASEA/ABB, SKF, Alfa Laval, AGA, Volvo, Spotify, and Dyno Nobel. The unemployment rate in the country as of March 2020 was 6.8%[6].

However, it is rather difficult for a foreigner to find a job here, as it is necessary to know Swedish. Specialization also plays an important role, for example, a programmer has more opportunities to find a suitable position. Especially considering that Sweden has the most unicorns per capita after Silicon Valley. Read more about working and doing business in Sweden in this guide.

Thanks to the Bologna system, Swedish diplomas are accepted in all the countries that work under the same system. Therefore, you can try your luck in other European countries or return to your home country. There, employers will willingly hire a graduate from a Swedish university.

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