learning Swedish For Members

What are the alternatives to the free Swedish for Immigrants course?

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 14 May, 2023 Updated Sun 14 May 2023 08:33 CEST
What are the alternatives to the free Swedish for Immigrants course?
An SFI teacher with a class in Skärholmen, Vårby, back in 2016. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Foreigners in Sweden should perhaps be grateful to be offered Swedish language tuition completely for free. But the Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) course is not for everyone. Here are some of the alternatives.


What is SFI and who has the right to it?

Anyone over the age of 16 who is resident in Sweden, registered with the Swedish tax agency (folkbokförd), and has only a basic or lower level of Swedish has the right to at least 15 hours per week of Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) tuition under Swedish law. 

The local municipality is responsible for providing the course, either through its own adult education department or via a private provider.

According to the school curriculum, SFI must be divided into four courses, A,B,C and D, with three study lines (studieväg) far various levels of student education. 

The first study line is for students who have little or no prior education, the second is for those who have only completed primary school, and the third is for those who have graduated from the equivalent of a Swedish upper secondary school or who have completed higher university studies. 

Why might you be unable to or simply not want to study SFI? 

You might be desperate to learn Swedish but be ineligible. You might, for instance, not yet be resident in the country or not yet registered with the tax agency. Until earlier this year, this was the case for Ukrainians who fled to Sweden after the Russian invasion. Under SFI rules, you do not formally need to have a personal number or coordination number to be eligible for classes, but in practice it can be a headache to get access to classes without one. 

You might be in a hurry to learn Swedish and want to study full time, or at least have more than the 15 hours a week SFI entitles you to. 

You might want higher-quality tuition. SFI tuition can be hit and miss, with some excellent teachers and schools but many poor ones. Only about a third of those teaching SFI are actually qualified to do so, and classes can be overcrowded and disorganised. 

You might want to reach a higher level of Swedish than the highest D level available under SFI – equivalent to a B+ or intermediate level in the Council of Europe's Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFR). 

You also might want to study with other highly educated people. Although some municipalities do provide graduate-level SFI courses, they are not required to do so, and many high-skilled immigrants to Sweden can find their fellow students a drag on their progress. 


So what are the alternatives? 

Study an intensive course at a university 

Many Swedish universities offer part-time and full-time Swedish courses to students with a foreign background. Some are beginner's courses for exchange students, but several courses take students all the way to an advanced level over the course of a year of full-time tuition. 

The aim is for students to pass the TISUS exam at the end of the year, proving that they have reached a sufficiently high level of Swedish to study in the language at a Swedish University. 

Here are links to the so-called "Qualifying courses in Swedish" offered at Stockholm University, Gothenburg UniversityMalmö University, Uppsala University, Lund University, and Linköping University.

For those intending to stay in Sweden for the medium to long-term, these courses are highly recommended. 

It might seem a sacrifice to take an entire year out of your career or education to learn Swedish, but the time invested pays off very quickly and will provide dividends for decades, making it easier to integrate, make friends and to get a job in the country. 

Many of those who take these courses also end up making friends for life. 



There are the two main study associations offering evening classes in Sweden. Folkuniversitetet, literally "the people's university", has a background in the Social Democratic movement, while Medborgarskolan is linked to the rightwing Moderate Party. 

Medborgarskolan is much smaller, and only offers beginners Swedish courses in a few cities such as Gothenburg and Örebro. Unless you live in these places, Folkuniversitetet should probably be your first choice. 

Folkuniversitetet offers a free "Swedish for asylum seekers course" for people who have not yet been granted residency in Sweden (although you do need an LMA number or LMA card showing that you are a registered asylum seeker). 


It also offers "intensive" and "extra-intensive" beginner courses in Stockholm, which squeeze the initial A1 level into just two weeks, with six hours of lessons a day, Monday to Friday, and intensive courses in Gothenburg, which do the beginner's course in four weeks. 

The organisation offers summer courses in July which can be quite convenient for those who are working full time, and it also offers courses designed for various professions, such as computer programmers or nurses, tailor-made courses for companies, and one-on-one individual tuition. 

The advantage of Folkuniversitetet is how well-established it is. It even has its own text books for Swedish tuition.

The fact that you are your fellow students are paying a fee also means the education level of the students tends to be higher than for SFI. The disadvantage is that the standard of tuition is still quite variable. 

The intensive ten-day course at Folkuniversitetet costs 5,875 kronor. 

Private language courses 

Sweden doesn't have nearly as many private language schools as you find in countries like the UK, Spain, or Italy, reflecting the fact that the overwhelming majority of students opt for SFI.

But they do exist. 

Grow Internationals offers group courses tailored for people relocating to Sweden in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Uppsala. 

Swedish Express offers courses mainly designed for people who want to learn Swedish as a hobby with courses offered in holiday destinations such as Gotland, Åland, Åre, Abisko, and Kangos as well as in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Uppsala and Malmö.  

Communicera is a high-end language school based in Malmö which, while relatively expensive, offers classes with a maximum of seven students, with all teachers qualified. The school's extra-intensive course, with 40 45-minute lessons a week for 4-7 participants, costs 9,800 kronor per person. 

All of these schools offer one-to-one tuition on demand. 

The German specialist Swedish language school OBS! arranges Swedish language-learning holidays primarily for a German clientele but also for international people interested in learning the language. 


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jean-francois lutz 2023/04/19 19:48
Hi, there is another case of non-eligibility, being retired / too old, we have been nicely told so at Vuxenutbildning in Stenungsund, its only if you intend to get a job in Sweden.

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