Higher education in Sweden

Higher education in Sweden is divided into three levels or cycles – first cycle (Bachelor’s level), second cycle (Master’s level) and third cycle (doctoral level). All higher education at Uppsala University is offered in the form of courses. Students can apply for admission to a freestanding course or to a degree programme, which is a package of courses that leads towards a degree.

At the national level, the Ministry of Education and Research is responsible for higher education and research. Sweden has a higher education degree structure and other reforms in line with the current European-wide Bologna process aiming at harmonising higher education structures in Europe.

The academic year in Sweden is divided into two semesters. The academic year consists of 40 weeks (20 weeks per semester), and begins with the autumn semester and finishes with the spring semester. There are no formal holiday periods during the semester. There are however short breaks over Christmas and Easter.

Semester dates


  • Autumn 2023: 28 August – 14 January
  • Spring 2024: 15 January – 2 June


  • Autumn 2024: 2 September – 19 January
  • Spring 2025: 20 January – 8 June


  • Autumn 2025: 1 September – 18 January
  • Spring 2026: 19 January – 7 June

Students who are not citizens of the EU/EEA or Switzerland will be liable to pay tuition and application fees for courses and programmes at Swedish universities. Prices are decided by each university and will provide overall costs in full, which means that they contain the premium including management, reception, service and marketing.

Read more about the tuition fees at Uppsala University.

Higher education in Sweden is divided into three levels, or cycles:

  1. First cycle (Bachelor’s level).
  2. Second cycle (Master’s level).
  3. Third cycle (doctoral level).

All higher education at Uppsala University is offered in the form of courses. Students can apply for admission to a freestanding course or to a degree programme, which is a package of courses that leads towards a degree.

At the national level, the Ministry of Education and Research is responsible for higher education and research. Sweden has a higher education degree structure and other reforms in line with the current European-wide Bologna process aiming at harmonizing higher education structures in Europe.

Bachelor’s programmes

Bachelor’s programmes vary in length from 3 to 5 1/2 years. Each programme consists of courses of varying length. The Bachelor’s programmes are designed to meet different educational requirements. A full study programme comprises a number of courses in a particular field of study - such as business, humanities or natural sciences - and leads to a degree.

Only a few programmes at the Bachelor’s level are taught in English. For the greater part of the first degree programmes, knowledge of Swedish is absolutely necessary for admission since the language of instruction is Swedish.

Master’s programmes

Uppsala University offers a substantial selection of Master’s programmes taught in English. They are normally open to both foreign and Swedish students with a Bachelor’s degree (a Swedish Kandidatexamen) or an equivalent degree. The total length of the Master’s programmes is from one to two years and they lead to a Degree of Master (60 credits and 120 credits respectively).

Doctoral studies

Postgraduate studies consist of a number of courses and a doctoral dissertation in which the doctoral student carries out an individual research project. The length of the studies to get a doctor’s degree is four years. It is sometimes possible to conclude the PhD studies with a licentiate degree after two years. In most cases, prior knowledge of Swedish and particularly English is useful in order for your studies to be meaningful.

Freestanding courses

Uppsala University offers over 2000 independent courses, so called freestanding courses, stretching over all disciplines and from the basic level to the advanced levels of study.

Courses are usually offered in traditional university field of studies, such as the natural sciences, the social sciences and the humanities. Freestanding courses vary in length but most frequently from 7.5 to 30 credits, in other words between five and twenty weeks in length.

The university decides on an annual basis which courses it wishes to offer, although the course offerings do not change substantially from one year to the other. In Sweden, studies are usually confined to one subject at a time during a given semester which is different from, for instance, the case in the USA.

In Sweden, admission to one freestanding course does not automatically lead to admission to additional studies towards a degree. Admission is only granted for that specific course on that specific admission occasion.

Most of the courses are taught in Swedish, so therefore knowledge of Swedish at the academic level is necessary. Although the number of courses taught in English is growing, there is a priority for exchange students for admission to undergraduate courses taught in English.

A great number of freestanding courses and degree programmes are accessible to international students. Swedish is, although, the usual language of instruction for courses and programmes at the Bachelor’s level. Uppsala University offers a wide array of programmes and courses taught in Swedish.

At the Master's level Uppsala University offers a substantial amount of programmes in English. There are also a few Bachelor’s programmes taught in English.

Uppsala University does not offer any beginner Swedish courses. You can find out where such courses are being held and other ways to learn the Swedish language, at the Swedish Institute’s website. Formal exchange students, however, are offered courses in basic Swedish and Master’s students can be accepted if there is space available.

Teaching and learning at Uppsala University is based on the concept that students take responsibility for their own learning and development, with the support of teaching staff. Unlike many countries around the world, the academic environment in Sweden is informal and highly interactive. Here, students are on first name terms with their professors, and are free to engage in discussions and express their points of view. Lectures, laboratory work, seminars, group work, excursions, distance learning and independent study are just some of the teaching methods used by the University. As a student, you should feel confident engaging in classroom activities and sharing your thoughts, ideas and feelings.

There are some common learning concepts and examination methods you will get familiar with when studying in Sweden. Here are some examples.

Independent study

You will need to take responsibility to structure your own studies. This also means that you will spend a large amount of time reading and studying on your own outside the classroom. Of course if you prefer, you may study independently together with your classmates as well. You can find various study places on all campuses. There are also many university libraries and city libraries with a large amount of study spaces. All are free for you to use.


At a seminar, you present your ideas and discuss with your classmates regarding a course book or other material that you are required to study before the seminar. The teacher usually only moderates the discussion. The aim is to develop critical thinking and collaborative skills. All students are expected to be active participants in all forms of discussions.

Group work

You complete assignments together with your classmates outside the classroom. This way, you learn from each other and you train to be a team player. You can find many spaces for group work on campuses and at libraries.

Elective course

You choose among a range of courses within your study field that can be included in your degree programme. This way, you can tailor your education according to your interests and career plans. Your selection is usually made in dialogue with your teachers or study counsellors, to ensure that your choices suit your qualifications and interests, as well as that you achieve the specialisation you are seeking.

Take-home examination

This is an unsupervised examination. You need to complete tasks independently at home within a certain amount of time. The purpose is to test your ability in applying knowledge to new information or your understanding of a topic. You can check your course book or other study material, but you must use your own insights and deliberations to create your answers.


The duration and extent of programmes and courses is expressed in a system of credits equivalent to ECTS credits - that is, you take 30 credits per semester for full-time studies. A full academic year corresponds to 60 credits, thus, one semester corresponds to 30 credits. Furthermore, one semester corresponds to 20 weeks and one week corresponds to 40 hours of study. Each week of full-time study is worth 1.5 credits.

How to calculate ECTS credits?

In our requirements and selection criteria, you can see that we have instructions regarding credits. The credits refer to the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) credits. If your previous university uses a different credit system and does not provide conversion between your local credits and ECTS credits, we will convert your local credits into ECTS credits.

60 ECTS credits correspond to one full-time academic year. Knowing the total number of credits needed to get a degree in your local credit system and the duration of the degree (the number of years), we can estimate the conversion factor (CF) as follows:
CF = (the number of years × 60) / the total number of credits

For example, if your 3-year Bachelor’s degree corresponds to a total of 120 credits in your system, then:
CF = (3×60) / 120 = 1.5

This means that a 4-credit course in your system corresponds to 4×CF = 6 ECTS credits.

Grading scales

Uppsala University uses five different grading scales. Each faculty decides which of the grading scales will be used in that faculty. The syllabus for a course must always specify which grading scale will be used for that particular course.

The syllabus must specify the course goals, formulated as intended learning outcomes. The goals describe the requirements for a passing grade. The requirements for higher grades must be formulated in terms of increasing levels of quality of goal attainment.

Grading scales for first- and second-cycle courses as of 23 October 2018. The following grading scales are used at Uppsala University:

  • Fail (U), Pass (G)
  • Fail (U), Pass (G), Pass with distinction (VG)
  • Fail (U), Pass (3), Pass with credit (4), Pass with distinction (5)
  • Fail (U), Pass (B), Pass with credit (Ba), Pass with distinction (AB)
  • Fail (F), Sufficient (E), Satisfactory (D), Good (C), Very good (B) Excellent (A)

The grade “Fail” does not appear on an official transcript of records.

If a student receives a passing grade, no re-takes or supplemental assignments can be done to receive a higher grade, nor can a student be re-registered on the course.