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Who can study for free in Sweden?

Who can study for free in Sweden?
Swedish university courses are free for many foreigners, including non-EU residents in some cases. Photo: Bertil Ericson/Scanpix
Whether you want to do a full degree, a shorter academic or vocational course, or learn the Swedish language, there are lots of tuition-free programmes available to different groups in Sweden.

University

Studying at a Swedish university is free for most people living in Sweden, whether or not you are a citizen. That includes degrees at BA or MA level, and it is sometimes possible to take single courses, equivalent to a small number of university credits, where teaching might be carried out in person or remotely. You will need to meet the requirements for the specific course, which may include high school or previous university education, and language skills in Swedish or English. 

All Swedish and EU citizens have their tuition fees waived, though you may need to submit a copy of your passport when applying.

If you are a non-EU student coming to Sweden on a student permit, then you need to pay international tuition fees. There are usually a range of scholarship opportunities available, and applications usually open shortly after the general university admissions close.

But if you are living in Sweden on a different type of permit, for example as the partner of a Swedish resident or a work permit holder, or on a work permit yourself, then your university tuition is also free. You will need to provide proof of your residence in Sweden.

This includes any British citizens moving to Sweden as of January 1st, 2021: if you are moving specifically for studies, you’ll need to apply for a student permit and pay international tuition fees, but if you are moving on a different permit, you can apply to university for free. Brits already resident in Sweden before the transition period will need to show proof of this, either a copy of your residence card or a copy of the letter from the Migration Agency that shows you are eligible for one.

Swedish for Immigrants (SFI)

Many foreigners in Sweden are eligible for state-funded Swedish-language courses for immigrants, called SFI.

SFI is available for people aged over 16, and there is no requirement of previous education or language skills, but you will be placed into a different ‘track’ or course based on your previous educational background. To be eligible, you need to lack a basic knowledge of Swedish, and people who speak Danish or Norwegian are not usually eligible.

SFI is available for people with a Swedish personnummer, as well as EU/EEA citizens even without a personnummer, which unfortunately means that some new arrivals including asylum seekers, undocumented residents, and people on some temporary permits are not eligible for the state-funded classes.

Bear in mind that staff at education centres or municipalities are not always aware of the rules around eligibility, and The Local readers have reported being refused SFI despite being eligible, for example EU citizens lacking a personnummer.

Vocational courses for people affected by the Covid-19 pandemic

In 2020-2021, there is also an additional option for free studying, aimed at those who have been laid off, had working hours reduced or otherwise had their work affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Sweden has provided 30 million kronor in funding for free training courses to help this group get back into the job market, called Arbetsmarknadsnära insatser på distans (work-related educational efforts at a distance, AMNI). These funds have gone to adult education centres (studieförbund) across the country, such as ABF, Medborgarskolan and Folkuniversitet for example, and the courses include foreign languages (including Swedish for non-native speakers), IT, business, and other topics aimed at boosting participants’ employment prospects.

You can search for the courses available by looking at different education centres and seeing which conditions apply. Because the courses are held at a distance, you don’t need to limit yourself to those in your neighbourhood.


Member comments

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  1. As it stands, as far as I know, the only free-standing Swedish language course accessible to non EU residents (i.e. those requiring a student residence permit to study/live in Sweden) is at Lund University. Several universities offer short courses or part time courses intended to bring the student up to A1 or A2 level while they study for their actual degree, but none of them are meant to make the learner even close to fluent.

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