To understand the study system and what comprises a university education, important concepts to become familiar with are study pace, credits, the grading system, and eligibility.
Swedish Study System
If you study full-time you are supposed to spend around 40 hours a week on your studies, for example lectures, group work and individual studies. Full-time studies during one term equals 30 credits if you pass all courses.
Half-time means you should spend approximately 20 hours a week on your studies. It takes twice as long to complete a course at half-time study pace as it takes to complete the same course on a full-time basis. Half-time studies gives you 15 credits per semester if you pass all courses.
Part-time studies at 25% study pace means you should spend 10 hours a week on your studies. One term of part-time studies at 25% study pace gives you 7.5 credits if you pass all courses.
Credits and classes
In Sweden, the credit system is used to measure academic achievement. Sweden follows the ECTS system. After the successful completion of full-time study (having passed the examinations), the student will have achieved 30 credit points (högskolepoäng), which is equivalent to 30 ECTS or 15 US credits. Degree programme students are automatically enrolled for full-time studies of 30 ECTS per semester.
In the Swedish system, students usually only take one course at a time. Students select courses so that they make up a full semester of studies - see the example below.
The important thing to remember is to choose courses that are given at different times during the semester so that you do not end up with four courses that all start in the middle of October. See the model below.
Important! International students must be admitted to full-time studies, or at least 30 ECTS per semester, in order to obtain a residence permit for studies in Sweden by the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket).
Students in degree programmes do not need to be concerned with the credit system, as each programme includes 30 ECTS per semester.
In the Swedish study system we have a 3-level grading scale (with a few exceptions at some departments) comprising:
"VG" = Pass with distinction
"G" = Pass
"U" = Fail
No overall grade is given for a degree.
Translation of grades
If you are an exchange student and will have your credits transferred, your home university is responsible for any translation of Swedish grades into your home country's specific grading system. It may be helpful if you present the course work and exams you complete at Umeå University to your home university when you return.
ECTS grading table
To support the translation of grades, the ECTS grading table is used at Umeå University. The grading table shows the distribution of awarded grades since the course was established with the current course code, until the date when you have completed your course. It will not show for courses established less than two years before the date you completed the course.
The academic year in Swedish universities is divided into two semesters (or academic terms): Autumn and Spring.
Autumn: End of August/Beginning of September to the middle of January.
Spring: Middle of January to the beginning of June.
There are breaks for Christmas and Easter. Please note that semester dates may vary between different departments.
The exception to the two-semester system are summer courses, which offers a selected number of courses with English language instruction that are given from June through to August. Academic calendar
The teaching methods are based on the student's responsibility and individual performance. Students are expected not only to remember the facts from a lecture, but also to summarise, evaluate and analyse them in order to draw their own conclusions. Examinations seldom require that students reproduce exactly the material presented during the lectures.
Exams are not given at the end of the semester, but rather at the end of each course, as explained above. The exam can be in the form of a written test or you may be asked to hand in an assignment, participate in a seminar, or do a "home exam". When taking a Home Exam you are given a number of days to answer a set of questions. You may use your books, but the questions generally require you to have your own opinions and are more essay-like in character.
The Student-Teacher relationship
The academic lifestyle of Umeå University is relaxed and friendly. The dress code is informal and the staff/student relationship is non-authoritarian and democratic.
The teacher/professor is addressed by his or her given name and questions and debate are encouraged in the classroom. Another aspect of this democratic attitude is the emphasis that is placed on the students being independent in their work and taking responsibility for the quality of their learning.