Finding your course
First thing's first: what do you want to study, and where?
Sweden has 39 higher education institutions across the country, all offering at least some courses in English, and you can search all the courses on offer here.
You can apply for more than one course, and you will be asked to rank them when you apply. The order you choose is important, so you should put your top choices first. Once you begin to receive offers, you will be evaluated in the order that you ranked the courses, and once you've reached the limit (meaning you've received offers for a course or courses totalling more than 45 credits) your lower ranked choices will be deleted.
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The academic year is split into two semesters in Sweden, spring and autumn, with most degrees starting in the autumn (although you can often take individual courses in the spring term, and some degrees start both in autumn and spring – with competition often less fierce for the spring round).
You should check the dates for the specific courses you want to apply to, because individual universities may have their own processes, but the following is a rough guide:
Mid-October to mid-January: first round of applications for the autumn semester
Mid-March to mid-April: second round of applications for the autumn semester
June to mid-August: first round of applications for the spring semester
Mid-September to Mid-October: second round of applications for the spring semester
The first round is intended mainly for international students and takes place a long time before the start of the semester to give students enough time to sort out their permits — if you are moving to Sweden from outside the EU and don't already have the right to reside in Sweden (for example if you have EU citizenship or are moving to join a family member) you will need a student permit.
All courses taught in English tend to offer this first round, with only a few of them opening for the second round along with all Swedish-taught courses. That means even if you are already living in Sweden or the EU, it makes sense to apply in the first round if you want to study in English, because more options will be available.
Photo: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se
Applying to university is done online in Sweden through the centralised portals UniversityAdmissions.se for courses taught in English and Antagning.se for Swedish language courses. Both are managed by the Swedish Council for Higher Education, the national authority which coordinates higher education. You can create an account using your Swedish social security number or personnummer if you have one (which you should if you are already resident in Sweden) or using an email address.
You will need to check the application requirements very carefully, which may include admissions materials, a cover letter, or more. There is no standardised test you need to take to apply to university; Sweden does offer a university test called högskoleprovet or SweSAT which can increase your chance of getting into popular courses, but this is an optional route to university studies and is only available for Swedish speakers, so for international students you will use your grades to apply.
For a Bachelors programme, you may need to send in proof of secondary school grades.
For a Masters, you will need a Bachelor's degree, and there may be requirements to have completed a certain number of credits or courses in a subject. Make sure you are clear on how your grades and credits are translated into Swedish.
You may be required to send in copies of key documents, and some may need to be stamped, signed or verified in other ways, so start getting your application materials in order as soon as you can. You can tweak your application right up until the deadline, so there is nothing to lose by getting started as soon as possible.
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If you are applying for a course in English, you will usually need to prove your linguistic ability through a recognised certificate, such as secondary school or university studies or an international certificate such as IELTS, TOEFL, or a Cambridge/Oxford Certificate.
Alternatively, if you have learned Swedish already you might be looking at courses in the local language. Again, you'll need proof of your proficiency, which might be in the form of school studies, a university course, or the TISUS qualification. The latter is a test you can take twice each year if you speak Swedish but don't have a formal qualification in it, for example if you grew up in a bilingual household or have taught yourself.
Photo: Sofia Sabel/imagebank.sweden.se
Fees and funding
If you are a non-EU student planning to come to Sweden on a student permit, you will be required to pay international student tuition fees as well as an application fee.
There are usually a range of scholarship opportunities available, and applications usually open shortly after the general university admissions close.
For most other students, tuition is free, including for EU citizens and people who already have a residence permit for Sweden for a reason other than studies. You will need to provide some form of evidence of either your EU citizenship (such as a passport) or residence status.
If you get accepted, you will need to confirm your place.
After that, non-EU students will need to apply for a student permit through the Swedish Migration Agency. Then the fun part begins: planning your Swedish student experience.