WENR, September/October 2003: Sweden





• In April 2002, the Ministry of Education and Science appointed a group to review developments relating to the Bologna Process. A final report, “Degree Review,” will be released by December 2003. For further information, see: http://utbildning.regeringen.se/inenglish/pdf/review_univdegrees.pdf.

• The “Degree Review” will focus on the level and status of the master’s degree, the formulation of the scopes and objectives of the degrees, the translation of the degree titles and will also address the issue of adapting the Swedish credit system and grading scale to the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) grading scale.

• A state commission has also been appointed to review Sweden’s doctoral programs, including a survey of how they compare to those in other countries and to the Bologna Process. This report is also due in December.

• Objectives for higher education are explained in the Higher Education Act and in the Higher Education Ordinance (1993): http://utbildning.regeringen.se/inenglish/publications.htm#acts.

1. Easily Readable and Comparable Degrees

• As of Jan. 1, 2003, a Diploma Supplement is issued free of charge and in English and free of charge with the award of a degree certificate in accordance with legislation passed Feb.15, 2001. It should, as much as is feasible, contain ECTS data.

• Sweden ratified the Lisbon Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications in the EHEA in August 2001.

• The National Agency for Higher Education [2] (Högskoleverket) acts as the Swedish ENIC/NARIC body. The Swedish Institute also forms part of the ENIC network.

2. Degree Structure

• Undergraduate degrees are divided into general degrees and professional degrees.

Current degree structure for general degrees:

  • Högskoleexamen (university diploma): at least two years of full-time study, 80 Swedish credits (poäng) (120 ECTS credits)
  • Kandidatexamen (bachelor): at least three years of full-time study, either of a general nature or professionally oriented, 120 credits (180 ECTS credits)
  • Magisterexamen med amnesdjup (master): at least four years of full-time study, 160 credits (240 ECTS credits)
  • Magisterexamen med amnesbredd: awarded after studies of at least 40 credits to students with a degree of at least 120 credits or the equivalent.
  • Licentiatexamen (Licentiate): usually two years of full-time study after the completion of at least three years of full-time undergraduate study
  • Doktorsexamen (doctorate): usually four years of full-time study after the completion of at least three years of full-time undergraduate study

• Master’s degrees of 40 credits (60 ECTS credits), after a bachelor of 120 credits (180 ECTS credits), are offered in all disciplines. Master’s degrees are awarded at the level of four years/240 ECTS credits.

• Review of the Bologna Declaration’s division of higher education degrees into different cycles is still under review and will be available in December 2003. The analysis will clarify the division given in the declaration and will determine which programs will be affected by a division based on a system of bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

• In addition to the existing degrees, a new type of professional master’s degree has been introduced recently, called magisterexamen med ämnesbredd. This new professional master’s degree is designed as an important element of progressing lifelong learning, aiming at candidates who are already in employment.

• An interim report in March 2003 made proposals concerning the position of the master’s in relation to other qualifications. These proposals are under review by higher education institutions and the National Students Union.

• Swedish officials stress the importance of the European Research Area, and the logical inclusion of a third cycle (doctoral studies) in the EHEA.

3. Credit Transfer

• The use of a credit point system is mandatory throughout the Swedish higher education system. The workload of a student is expressed in points: one week of full-time study equals one credit point (one year is 40 credits). One Swedish credit point is equal to 1.5 ECTS credits. A full student workload is equal to 1,600 hours per year.

• ECTS is implemented as both a transfer and accumulation system for incoming and outgoing students in the majority of institutions taking part in the SOCRATES student exchange programs. In addition, some institutions use ECTS points as a general system alongside the national credit point system. Currently, however, the ECTS grading scale is not frequently used in Sweden.

• The “Degree Review” will address whether to adapt the Swedish credit system and grading scale to the ECTS.

Swedish Official Grading Scale

Expanded Grading Scale (Bus Courses only)

ECTS Grading Scale
Percentage of Successful Students Normally Achieving the Grade
EXCELLENT: outstanding performance with only minor errors
High Pass
VERY GOOD: above average, but with some errors
GOOD: generally sound work, with a number of notable errors



SATISFACTORY: fair, but with significant shortcomings




SUFFICIENT: performance meets the minimum criteria

FAIL: some more work required before the credit can be awarded
FAIL: considerable further work required

* Lund University, Business Equivalencies


4. Mobility

• Universities and university colleges are responsible for the recognition of foreign credentials and study periods abroad if the student is to continue his or her studies in Sweden. The National Agency for Higher Education evaluates study periods abroad for foreign qualifications in relation to the labor market.

• Sweden joined the ERASMUS program in 1992. The number of Swedish exchange students participating in this program, however, has diminished in recent years. The International Program Office for Education and Training published a report in October 2002 containing a number of proposals to address this issue.

• At Swedish universities and university colleges, an increasing number of courses are offered in English for both national and international students.

• Foreign students have the same right as Swedish students to government subsidization of all tuition fees.

• According to the “Graz Trends III” report, Sweden is a net importer of students. The government is keen to promote the internationalization of Swedish education and attract more foreign students to the country.

• Sweden has a number of bilateral agreements in addition to its participation in the following exchange programs: Linnaeus/Palme (with non-Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries), Visby (with Baltic countries, Poland and Russia) and Nordplus (with Nordic countries).

5. Quality Assurance

• In 2001, the National Agency for Higher Education began performing six-year evaluations of all undergraduate- and graduate-level programs. National recurrent and comprehensive subject and program evaluations will continue on a six-year cycle after the initial six-year review is completed.

• Evaluation is a multi-step process. First, the institution assesses itself in accordance with procedures laid down by the agency. Its findings are then evaluated by an external group of experts. Interviews are conducted with staff members on the basis of the initial report. Improvements are then proposed, and some years later a follow-up assessment is carried out.

• The agency assesses an institution’s right to award degrees by looking at the standard of education and research. It also assesses an institution’s right to award doctoral degrees and, where applicable, its right to university status, although the government makes the final decision on such matters.

• The agency also examines quality management, i.e., the quality process at the local level.

6. Promotion of European Dimensions in Higher Education

• Swedish institutions of higher education are active in European Community education programs.

• Sweden is increasingly promoting the development of international joint degrees, although it estimates the number of joint degrees available to Swedish students today as very small. Most joint-degree programs appear to be at the master level, although a small number of joint bachelor’s degrees exists.

• In May 2002, Sweden organized the Stockholm conference on joint degrees and integrated curriculums that led to detailed recommendations: http://www.bologna-berlin2003.de/en/bologna_seminars /index.htm [3].

• Working with the Nordic Council of Ministers [4], Sweden is looking at proposals on how to spur the creation of joint degrees among Nordic countries and how to promote those degrees.

• There are joint arrangements between Baltic and Nordic countries in, for example, technical and agricultural disciplines, but these often lead to the award of the home-institution degree only.

• An example of regional cooperation is the recent creation of Øresund University [5], a network of 12 Danish and Swedish universities.

• In awarding joint degrees, a “double degree” (two separate degrees) appears to be the common practice.

Nick Clark
Aug. 27, 2003


Survey on Master Degrees and Joint Degrees in Europe, Christian Tauch and Andrejs Rauhvargers, September 2002

The State of Implementation of ECTS in Europe, European University Association, October 2002

Diploma Supplement – State of Implementation, European Commission, last update June 2003

Lisbon Convention Status Reports, Council of Europe, August 29, 2003

The Information Network on Education in Europe – Eurydice [6], European Union

Report on the Swedish Follow-up of the Bologna Declaration, Ministry of Education, April 30, 2003

Guide for Exchange Students – Transfer of Grades, Lund University [7]