The Swedish government invests a substantial amount of tax revenue in their tertiary education system, aiming to provide its students with a world-class education and the opportunity to participate in a wide range of research and development. There are 36 universities in Sweden, 8 of which are in the top 350 universities in the QS World University Rankings. A vast range of undergraduate and graduate programs are offered.

Degrees and course structure

The Swedish tertiary education program is set to the European standard.

Bachelor’s programs: Also known as undergraduate degrees are the first degrees after secondary school and typically take 3 years to complete. Most programs will require you to complete 180 ECTS.

Master’s programs: Also known as graduate programs are the successive step after a bachelor program. They can range in duration but are usually between 1-2 years. 60 – 120 ECTS are needed to complete a master’s.

PHD programs: Also known as doctorates involve great research into one particular area. The duration and requirements for dissertation differ between universities.

A full time course requires 40 hours of work per week. The Swedish university system emphasizes the importance of independent learning and problem solving. For this reason, you will find that many courses only require around 15 in class contact hours.

It is also common to only take 1 or 2 courses at the same time. Each semester is split into 2 halves. Many courses will only run for half the semester, although some more complex courses can run for the full semester.

The academic calendar

The university year is split into 2 semesters. The Fall semester runs from the end of August to mid January. The Spring semester spans from mid-January to the beginning of June.

Tuition fees and living costs

Students from Sweden, the EU/EEA and Switzerland enjoy a tuition fee free university education. In 2012, it was estimated that universities cost approximately SEK 60.7 billion in 2012. 84.9 % of this funding came from the government. Most of this funding is derived from taxation revenue. Students from outside these areas do pay fees but may apply for scholarships to cover tuition and the cost of living. The Swedish government offers 2 scholarship programs for this.

The first one is awarded by the Swedish Institute which sets aside SEK 100 million per year to cover tuition and living for highly qualified students. The second is awarded by the Swedish Council for Higher Education and is worth SEK 60 million. It is presented to highly qualified students and only covers tuition.

Applying to a university in Sweden

The first step is to determine which course and institution you would like to attend. After this, you will need to conduct further research to find out the entry requirements and deadlines for your chosen course. You can submit an online application at This portal is a one-stop shop for applying to universities and allows you to apply for up to 4 different courses at different institutions on the same application.

If you are a EU or Swiss citizen, this application process is free, however if you are not, the application fee is SEK 900. After the application deadline passes, a selection committee from each university will assess your application. You will be notified online if the university wishes to offer you a place. If you have been successful and you are a non-EU/Swiss citizen, at this point you will need to pay the first installment of tuition fees. You will also need to apply for a residence permit before coming to Sweden.

Top 5 universities in Sweden

1. Lund University

Lund University is primarily located in Lund, an idyllic cobblestoned town close to the Danish border. It is ranked in the top 100 universities in the world and educates over 47,000 students.

Structure: Lund offers 100 master’s degrees and 5 bachelor degrees. All programs are taught in English. The main campuses are located in Lund, Malmö and Helsingborg.

Key expertise: Engineering, Economics, Management and Scientific research.

World Ranking (QS): 67

Student Life: Lund has been voted the best student city in Sweden several times and it is for good reason! With its buzzing nightlife, array of cafes and restaurants and proximity to Copenhagen, it is easy to understand why student’s love to come to Lund. While it is located in one of the oldest towns in the country, the high population of students manages to help maintain the town’s youthful appeal.

2. Uppsala University

As can be expected from Sweden’s original university, Uppsala is a well-established and culturally rich institution.

Structure: The University is organized into 3 disciplinary domains, Humanities and Social Sciences, Medicine and Pharmacy and Science and Technology. Each of these is further broken down into faculties.

Key expertise: Sciences, Law and Medicine.

World Ranking (QS): 79

Student Life: Uppsala is known for its extraordinary student life. Students are given the opportunity to join a community known as a nation where they can attend organized activities and make lifelong friends.

3. KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Located on an innovative and vibrant campus in the heart of Stockholm, KTH is the country’s most esteemed technical university. The Institute is a world leader in its fields and aims to develop pioneering minds.

Structure: The University offers bachelors and masters degrees in science, technology, innovation and engineering. All courses are taught in English.

Key expertise: Science, engineering and innovation

World Ranking (QS): 118

Student Life: Due to its inner city location, the KTH Royal Institute boasts a fantastic student life. Along with the many student associations and clubs, there is the possibility to interact with students from neighboring universities in the city.

4. Stockholm University

With over 70, 000 students and a prime inner city location, Stockholm University is considered one of the leading universities in Europe.

Structure: The University has 4 faculties, which are further separated into 64 departments. In total, there are 194 different programs offered.

Key expertise: Science, humanities and social sciences.

World Ranking (QS): 170

Student Life: Stockholm is ranked the 27th best student city in the world. At Stockholm University, you are spoiled for choice by the unique neighborhoods that surround you. If you feel like a night at a hipster bar, you can head to Södermalm or if you feel like exploring a medieval town, Gamla Stan is right around the corner.

5. Chalmers University of Technology

This university is located in the student city of Gothenburg. The teaching methods are based on creativity and students are encouraged to think innovatively.

Structure: All teaching is project-based and taught in English. This university only teaches 2-year Master’s programs.

Key expertise: Chemical Engineering, Civil and Structural Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science.

World Ranking (QS): 202

Student Life: With over 200 student societies and a 6-story area used to host student events and parties, Chalmers is renowned for its campus life. It is located in the same city as Gothenburg University and the universities often join to host large student events.