Help, my university just closed! Here’s what students in Sweden need to know

Swedish universities are closing their doors to students over the coronavirus. Here's what you need to know about how it affects you.

Help, my university just closed! Here's what students in Sweden need to know
Gothenburg University. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

As the cases of people infected with the coronavirus increase, Swedish authorities are adjusting their policies on a day-by-day basis, trying to respond to the current spread of the virus and the latest expert recommendations.

On March 17th, the government recommended educational institutions, including gymnasieskolor (upper secondary schools), and universities to transition to long-distance education from Wednesday onwards.

Does this mean that my university is closed?

No, not really. Educational institutions continue their activities, though might do so with closed doors. In the words of Stockholm University's president Astrid Söderbergh Widding: “It is important to remember: we are not closing the university – we are switching to other ways of working.”

As this policy is only a recommendation and – thus far – not a requirement, it's advisable to check in with the institution you're studying at. Some universities decided to keep their doors open for a limited period of time, giving students the opportunity to gather books or other materials necessary for home study. The Gothenburg University, for example, said it would take until March 26th to adjust.

Lund University. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Why is this recommendation mainly directed at adult education and not, for example, at primary schools and preschools?

The Swedish public health agency, Folkhälsomyndigheten, hopes to slow down the spread of the virus by limiting the gathering of people and thereby protect society's most vulnerable members.

“It is reasonable at this point in time to encourage upper secondary schools, universities and colleges to switch to online, long-distance education. In this way, education can continue without pupils and students having to gather in classrooms and lecture halls,” stated general director Johan Carlson on the agency's website, reasoning that students don't need the same supervision that younger children need.

Schools for younger children may be told to close at a later stage, according to authorities, but it is not seen as an effective measure in terms of containing the virus at this stage. This is both because of the nature of the virus (children appear to be affected to a lesser extent than adults) and because of the societal impact, for example because that may make it harder for parents of young children to go to work in essential jobs.

“It is not possible to just close schools without knowing where the children are going – for both social, psychological but also infection prevention reasons,” Carlson said at a press conference on March 13th.

Will I still receive my student grant or loan?

Yes, if you already received support and were eligible for support the oncoming months the payments should continue as usual, according to the minister for higher education and research Matilda Ernkrans. Furthermore, she told the newspaper Dagens Nyheter that the government is currently examining the possibility of creating a policy which would secure student funding in “exceptional situations”.

Students are now expected to study at home. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

What about exams?

Course work, as well as exams, are supposed to continue, though at times in different forms and with different means. The Stockholm University, for example, has left it up to its staff to come up with “suitable alternatives” for the regular curriculum. In some cases, certain institutions may decide to postpone deadlines or examinations and extend the spring semester into summer.

Is it true that the Högskoleprov, the Scholastic Aptitude Tests that thousands of aspiring students sit every year, has been cancelled this spring?

Yes, it is, for the first time since 1977. The test was due to take place on April 4th but has been cancelled altogether due to the government's decision to ban all gatherings of over 500 people.

The 70,000 students who signed up will have to sit a test at a later date. The next one is in autumn, on October 18th.

If you signed up for the test and you still have questions, you can find more information here.

Will I still be able to get the materials I need?

This might differ from institution to institution, so it's best to check with them. However, several universities and colleges already confirmed they would enable student to pick up books at given moments during the week. Here you can find the latest information about the libraries of the Stockholm University, here for those of Gothenburg University, here for those of Malmö University, and here for those of Lund University.

Support is generally also given to those who don't have home access to a computer.

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Public Health Agency recommends two Covid doses next year for elderly

Sweden's Public Health Agency is recommending that those above the age of 80 should receive two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine a year, once in the spring and once in the autumn, as it shifts towards a longer-term strategy for the virus.

Public Health Agency recommends two Covid doses next year for elderly

In a new recommendation, the agency said that those living in elderly care centres, and those above the age of 80 should from March 1st receive two vaccinations a year, with a six month gap between doses. 

“Elderly people develop a somewhat worse immune defence after vaccination and immunity wanes faster than among young and healthy people,” the agency said. “That means that elderly people have a greater need of booster doses than younger ones. The Swedish Public Health Agency considers, based on the current knowledge, that it will be important even going into the future to have booster doses for the elderly and people in risk groups.” 


People between the ages of 65 and 79 years old and young people with risk factors, such as obesity, diabetes, poor kidney function or high blood pressure, are recommended to take one additional dose per year.

The new vaccination recommendation, which will start to apply from March 1st next year, is only for 2023, Johanna Rubin, the investigator in the agency’s vaccination programme unit, explained. 

She said too much was still unclear about how long protection from vaccination lasted to institute a permanent programme.

“This recommendation applies to 2023. There is not really an abundance of data on how long protection lasts after a booster dose, of course, but this is what we can say for now,” she told the TT newswire. 

It was likely, however, that elderly people would end up being given an annual dose to protect them from any new variants, as has long been the case with influenza.