Study in Sweden

Higher education in Sweden is divided into three parts (undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate). Degrees are taken at first, second or third level. Education at first level will lead to a Bachelor’s degree, education at second level to a Master’s degree and education at third level (doctorate level) to PhD.

At the national level, the Swedish council for higher education, located in Stockholm, is responsible for higher education and research.
Read more about the higher education system in Sweden.

First degree programmes

First degree programmes vary in length from 3 to 5 1/2 years. Each programme consists of courses and subcourses of varying length. Admission to some of the courses is restricted to students taking the specified programme, while other courses may be open to all students meeting the the course qualifications.


Uppsala University offers a large number of single subject courses, also called separate or independent courses (fristående kurser). This does not apply to the School of Engineering, however, where the emphasis is on entire programmes. Subject courses are usually offered in traditional university subjects, as the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. 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 another. In Sweden studies are usually confined to one subject at a time during a given semester, which is a marked difference from, for instance, the case in the USA.

Single subject courses vary in length from 5 to 40 weeks, and may be combined into a programme leading to a degree. The requirement for obtaining such a degree is, in most cases, to have attained a minimum of 120 Swedish points (approximately 3 years of full-time studies), which must include a major of at least 60 Swedish points in the same subject.

Exchange students (students participating in an exchange programme between the home University and Uppsala University) are usually expected to take courses during one or two semesters, either from a first degree programme or one or more single subject courses.


Master programmes are 2 years in length and require a previous degree of at least Bachelors's level. The content of the programmes is composed of a number of courses and end with a degree project. According to the present Swedish study system master studies are cathegorised as graduate studies.


The two types of degree awarded for post-graduate studies in Sweden areLicentiate (Licentiate degree) and Doctor (Doctor of Philosophy, PhD). The former should take about 2 years and the latter about 4 years of full-time studies.

The Swedish term for the continued studies is “forskarutbildning”, meaning research education, and the general aim is to give the student knowledge and skills needed to carry on independent research in his/her scientific field.

More information about post-graduate studies in biology

Degrees and certificates

Bachelor's degree:

  • Students who complete programmes or courses of 3 years (180 ECTS), including a 10 week degree project (15 ECTS) will receive a Bachelor´s degree (kandidatexamen).

General degrees at Advanced level:

  • Master degree (Masterexamen in Swedish), 120 credits/ECTS (2 years full-time studies)

Admittance to studies at Advanced level requires a previous degree at minimum Bachelor’s level.

There is a computerized student register which comprises information about the students, their course registration and their results. Students can get official computerized transcripts from the department. Formal official transcripts of record in English are issued by the Graduation Office on request. After completion of their degree at Uppsala University, students receive the appropriate diploma both in Swedish and in English. They also receive a Diploma Supplement in English describing the main contents of their degree.

The academic year

The Swedish academic year is divided into two terms: an autumn term and a spring term, each 20 weeks long. The autumn term begins in the end of August or early September and ends mid-January. The spring term begins around January 19, and continues until the beginning of June. A two week break for individual studies occurs around Christmas for most courses (please check your course schedule) and there is a long summer break from the beginning of June until end of August. A few summer courses in various fields are offered during the summer.

Courses are of varying lengths, everything between a few weeks and a whole term. One week of full-time studies at a Swedish university equals 1.5 credits, one term equals 30 credits, and one academic year equals 60 credits.

Most courses require full-time studies (100%), but there are also some part-time courses. For instance, a 10-credit evening course may stretch over an entire term and thus accounts for 33% of full time studies.

Teaching methods

Education at Swedish universities is mainly based on the tradition that students take responsibility for their own studies with the support of the teaching faculty. It stresses the student's responsibility and individual performance. Teaching is carried out in different forms: lectures, seminars, group work, laboratory work, independent study, etc. The students are expected not only to remember the facts from a lecture, but also to summarize, evaluate and analyze them in order to draw their own conclusions.

Students raise questions and discuss during the lectures. In addition, they have to write small essays, solve specific problems in the laboratory and describe the procedure applied. Examinations seldom require that students reproduce exactly the material presented during the lectures.

Practical exercises are integrated in the courses, closely following theoretical information. At Uppsala University, science courses present newest research data and practicals train new methods as well as well established ones. Discussion and presentation techniques are also trained in every course. The distinction between theoretical and practical parts is thus less distinct than in other countries where these two moments are well separated in time.

The final degree projects give a deep knowledge in how to plan, realize and present a research project within a set time.

To many foreign students, the Swedish academical environment seems very informal. The teachers and the other members of staff dress informally and speak in a familiar style to the students. Although no formal tutor system exists, teachers engage in the students, and are willing to help these to overcome problems or failures. A well develop student-counselling system also helps students to plan for future studies.

Credits, grades and examinations

One study term is equal to 30 credits, "högskolepoäng" or "hp" for short. This can be translated to approximately 30 ECTS.

Students usually take one course at a time even if courses of short duration, for instance 7,5 credits, often run parallel with another course of 7,5 credits during a 10-week period.

Please note that in Sweden the number of teaching hours per week may vary considerably between different subjects and courses. Thus, there is no one-to-one correspondence between the number of points for a course and the number of teaching hours for that course, as is often the case in some other countries. Every course, however, requires full-time study equivalent to its number of points.

There are several systems of grading, but grades are normally awarded on a basis of 5 (highest) to 3 (lowest) or "fail". For some courses and programmes, "pass with distinction" (väl godkänd), "pass" (godkänd), or "fail" (underkänd). Exchange students will be graded in the ECTS scale in parallell to the Swedish grades.

All courses include written and/or oral examinations. There are, however, usually no final exams covering the entire semester's coursework (i.e. grouping the subcourses together) or covering an entire general study programme.

Translation of Swedish grading systems into the ECTS grading system (pdf)