The Higher education system in Sweden is divided into three levels: basic level (grundnivå), advanced level (avancerad nivå), and graduate level (forskarnivå). Sweden has 41 higher education institutions, high school colleges (first cycle universities) and universities.
The most reputed degrees have tended to be in humanities, although the government is now trying to boost science studies. Most undergraduate courses are taught jointly in English and Swedish. Masters tend to attract many international students, with more than 450 masters courses taught solely in English. The academic year is divided into 40 weeks, with two semesters. The first semester runs from the middle of August until the middle of January, and the second runs from the middle of January until June.
To be accepted into the basic level, students need to prove they have obtained a certificate of completion of secondary education. The best universities usually select students on the basis of their results.
Bachelor’s programmes, also known as undergraduate programmes, typically take place after the completion of upper secondary school and are usually three years long (180 ECTS credits).
Master’s programmes, also known as graduate programmes, build upon the knowledge developed during bachelor’s-level studies and can be one or two years long (60 or 120 ECTS credits).
PhD programmes, also known as doctoral programmes, are research degrees involving several years of work toward a dissertation. The duration and setup of PhD programmes in Sweden vary between universities; see PhD programmes for more details.
A degree programme at a Swedish university is made up of a number of courses in a particular field of study leading to a specific degree. Courses, sometimes known as modules in other countries, are the building blocks upon which each programme is based. Each semester, programme students follow one large course or several smaller courses.
Instead of applying for a full degree programme, it’s also possible to apply for admission to some courses directly. When you apply for and enrol on a course rather than a programme, you are only registered for that specific course. When you apply for and enrol on a programme, you will then register for many courses over the duration of your programme.
Degree programmes usually contain a mix of compulsory, recommended and optional courses.
The Swedish academic year is divided into two semesters:
Full-time studies in Sweden correspond approximately to a 40-hour week, though you may only have a few hours of lectures or seminars each week. The rest of your time is spent reading and working on group projects and other assignments.
You’ll often take only one course at a time for a period of several weeks, after which an examination is given directly. After the examination, a new course begins. For instance, during a 20-week semester, you might take four courses in a row for five weeks each. In some programmes, you might instead take several courses at the same time, with an examination at the end of the semester.
The structure of individual courses varies with the subject area. Technical programmes often include a high proportion of classroom and lab hours, whilst courses in the social sciences may involve fewer classroom hours and more independent and group work.
Courses usually include various types of meetings, including lectures, seminars and laboratory sessions with varying group sizes; seminar groups can be as small as a few students whilst lectures can be up to a few hundred. The aim is to develop critical thinking and collaborative skills, and students are expected to be active participants in all forms of meetings. Required reading and independent work is usually extensive, regardless of your field of study, and students are expected to come well-prepared to class.
Examinations usually take the form of written or oral tests, laboratory work, group work or special projects. Most programmes conclude with a degree thesis or project.
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