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Swedish study system - the basics

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

Study pace

Full-time (100%)

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 (50%)

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 (25%)

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.

Recommendations about combining courses

Courses are given at a different study pace. Full-time studies (100%) equals 40 hours a week. These courses are often tough to combine since the workload would be heavy and the lectures may collide. We therefore strongly recommend you NOT to combine these types of courses.

Some courses are given at a half-time (50%) or part-time (25%) pace, which means that the workload is 20 hours or 10 hours per week. Consequently, half-time, and part-time courses run for a longer period than a full-time course. These courses might be possible to combine with other courses if lectures do not collide. 

Whether or not courses are possible to combine depends on the schedules and if there are any course conflicts. The schedules are not published until one month before the course begins. Contact the department to ask if they have the schedule available, so that you can check if there are any course conflicts: International Contact Persons at the departments

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.

Grading systems

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.

Academic calendar

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

Teaching methods

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 set number of days to answer a set of questions. You may use your books, but the questions generally require you to provide your own opinions and are more essay-like in character.

The student-teacher interrelation

The academic lifestyle of Umeå University is relaxed and friendly. The dress code is informal and the staff-student interrelation is non-authoritarian and democratic.

Teachers or professors are addressed by their 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.

Latest update: 2024-03-26