The Swedish city planning to completely overhaul the school year

Malmö could be the first place in Sweden to overhaul the way the school year is set up – and much shorter summer holidays could be on the cards.

The Swedish city planning to completely overhaul the school year
The new proposals would cut down Sweden's long summer break. Photo: Ann-Sofi Rosenkvist/

Under proposals put forward in this week's budget, Malmö's elementary schools would swap the current two-term year for three terms, with a shorter summer break. If passed, these proposals would make it the first city in the country with three terms in the school year.

Liberal Party councillor Sara Wettergren argued that this structure, which is similar to the typical system in the UK for example, would help improve average grades and would also lead to a reduction in the results gap between schools in different areas.

“Many children who don't have Swedish as a native language lose a lot during the summer break,” she explained to the TT news agency. “Not everyone speaks Swedish at home or has Swedish-speaking people close to them, and that's when we notice a weakening in knowledge which affects all subjects.” 

“Sweden has had two terms since the farming society. It's been outdated for a long time and I'm not the only one who thinks so,” Wettergren added. “It's not easy to change something that's been around for a long time, but at some point maybe you have to stick your neck out and test something new.”

Sweden's long summer breaks, which can last up to ten weeks depending on the region, have their roots in a time when children needed to help their parents out with farm work during the summer. 

But in nearby countries such as Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, six-week breaks are more typical.

It's not the case that children would lose out on their time off under the new proposals; the breaks would simply be split more evenly throughout the year. 

And before the new schedule can become a reality, it needs to get approval from both the government and the teachers' unions.

The Swedish Teachers' Union said that the proposals had come as a surprise, and called for cooperation.

“No one has raised this question with us. It's just appeared without us talking about it earlier,” Marie Wall Almquist, spokesperson for the Swedish Teachers' Union in Malmö, told TT.

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‘They feel conned’: Swedish universities fight for PHDs hit by new residency rules

Sweden's top universities are to call for doctoral students to be exempted from Sweden's tough new permanent residency rules, arguing that it will damage both academic standards and national competitiveness.

'They feel conned': Swedish universities fight for PHDs hit by new residency rules
At Lund Technical University, a majority of doctoral students are international. Photo: Kennet Ruona/LTU

In a post on Wednesday, Astrid Söderbergh Widding, the chair of Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions, said that Sweden’s universities had agreed to submit a joint letter to the government “very soon”, calling for parliament to put in place a special exemption for PHD students to make it easier to stay in Sweden after their studies. 

The parliament, she wrote, “should introduce an exemption for doctoral students and young researchers from the requirement to be financially self-sufficient”. 

Previously, doctoral students were eligible for a permanent residence permit if they had lived in Sweden with a residence permit for doctoral studies for four out of the past seven years. Apart from a slim set of requirements, this was granted more or less automatically.

But according to Sweden’s new Migration Act, which was introduced in July this year as comprehensive legislation to control the number of asylum applications, they now need to be able to additionally show that they can support themselves financially for at least a year and half.

The new law means that the rules for permanent residency are now the same for all categories of applicants, including doctoral students.

Stefan Bengtsson, the rector at Chalmers University of Technology, said that the change would mean as many as 400 to 500 doctoral students, many of whom have built up considerable expertise, might be unable to stay in Sweden.

“This makes for an uncertain future for those from outside of Europe who have applied to come to Sweden for an academic career, which is cause for great concern and disappointment among those who came here under other circumstances,” he told The Local. “Some of them may, of course, feel like they’ve been conned

But what was even more worrying, he said, would be the impact the change to the law might have in the longer term. 

“This change to the law could contribute to giving Sweden a bad reputation. This will create difficulties in recruiting internationally and damage our long-term skills supply.”


At Lund University, the majority of doctoral students in the science and technical faculties are from outside Europe, while Söderbergh Widding, who is also vice chancellor at Stockholm University, estimated that about half of doctoral students were international. 

Söderbergh Widding told the TT newswire that the change was “a devastating death blow”, which put to waste a “previously hard-won battle to make it possible for doctoral students to obtain a permanent residency permit after four years of studies”. 

She said in her letter that the change contradicted the research policy proposition from December 2020, which stated that the “number of foreign doctoral students who stay in Sweden should increase”, and said that giving residency to doctoral students was a good way to increase this.  

Ole Petter Ottersen, the rector of the elite Karolinska medical university, told the newswire that he thought the change in residency laws would damage Swedish competitiveness. 

“This is not good for Sweden. This will damage our ability to attract and recruit talent from other countries. For a country that lies on the periphery, the goal should be to make it easier, not harder, to recruit competence.”