Upper secondary education in Sweden

Ungdomsuddannelse i Sverige
How upper secondary education is organised in Sweden, admission, entry requirements, and requirements for language proficiency.

All young people in Sweden who have completed compulsory school (grundskolan) or compulsory school for pupils with learning disabilities (grundsärskolan) are entitled to upper secondary education. Upper secondary education includes both upper secondary school (gymnasieskolan) and upper secondary school for pupils with learning disabilities (gymnasiesärskolan).

Upper secondary educational programmes

Upper secondary educational programmes are run by municipalities and private educational providers. Certain specialised programmes are only offered at a small number of places in the country.

Upper secondary school (Swedish National Agency for Education) (in Swedish)

In Sweden, upper secondary school covers all programmes - both those that lead to a university entrance qualification (högskoleförberedande) and those that are vocational (yrkesförberedande).

There are 18 national programmes (nationella program) that you can study anywhere in Sweden, and a number of specialised programmes. All programmes give an entry qualification to higher education.

All upper secondary programmes are three years. Six of the national programmes prepare the pupil for higher education. These are the Business Management and Economics Programme (ekonomiprogrammet), Arts Programme (estetiska programmet), Humanities Programme (humanistiska programmet), Natural Science Programme (naturvetenskapsprogrammet), Social Science Programme (samhällsvetenskapsprogrammet) and the Technology Programme (teknikprogrammet). The other programmes lead to qualifications in various vocational areas.

All pupils who complete a vocational programme can achieve a diploma that qualifies them for university entry (högskolebehörighet) by choosing courses in Swedish and English that enable the pupil to meet general entry requirements for higher education. Admission to many higher educational programmes also requires  specific entry qualifications.

The latest you can start upper secondary school in Sweden is before the end of the spring term in the year of your 20th birthday. If you are older than this, you must study via the adult education system.

The Swedish upper secondary educational programmes, both those that give a qualification to higher education and the vocational programmes, contain a lot of theoretical tuition.

Programmes in the Swedish upper secondary school comprise eight foundation subjects (gymnasiegemensamma ämnen) and other, more specialised, subjects.

All programmes include:

  • The eight foundation subjects: Swedish/Swedish as a Second Language, English, Mathematics, Physical Education and Health, History, Social Science, Religion, and Natural Science.
  • A number of programme-specific subjects depending on which upper secondary programme you are studying.
  • Diploma project (gymnasiearbete).

All vocational programmes offer work experience, called Workplace-based Learning (arbetsplatsförlagt lärande, APL).

If you have a diploma from a Swedish upper secondary school that qualifies you for university entry, you can apply to higher education institutions in all the Nordic countries.

More information is available via these links:

Upper secondary school for pupils with learning disabilities (gymnasiesärskolan)

Upper secondary school for pupils with learning disabilities (gymnasiesärskolan) is upper secondary education for young people with special needs. This is a four-year programme. The education comprises nine vocational national programmes, individual programmes for pupils who need to study subject areas instead of individual subjects, and programmes that deviate from the national structure.

Folk high schools

You can also study subjects at upper secondary level at a folk high school. Folk high schools are a different form of education with many different specialisations.

You can find more information on the websites of the Swedish National Agency for Education and Information about Education (Utbildningsinfo).

Requirements for admission to upper secondary education

The Nordic countries have an agreement on admission to upper secondary education in the Nordic region. Upper secondary school (gymnasieskolan) in Sweden is a free and voluntary school form, which you can choose to attend after completing compulsory school (grundskolan).

Admission

Most young people in Sweden apply for admission to an upper secondary educational programme in the spring of Year 9. You can apply for admission up to and including the spring term of the year of your 20th birthday.

You apply to a Swedish upper secondary educational programme via your municipality. Contact your municipality if you want help and guidance about applying for an upper secondary educational programme. You can find more information about the application process on your municipality’s website.

Entry requirements

To start an upper secondary educational programme in Sweden you must have completed compulsory school, with pass grades in English, Mathematics and Swedish or Swedish as a Second Language. You can apply for admission up to and including the spring term of the year of your 20th birthday – on condition that you have not already completed an upper secondary educational programme.

If the programme you want to apply to is very popular, the programme will require a higher average grade from compulsory school.

If you satisfy the entry requirements for a programme, you are  eligible (behörig).

In order to satisfy the entry requirements and become eligible for admission to vocational educational programmes, you must have pass grades in:

  • Swedish/Swedish as a Second Language
  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Pass grades in any five other subjects, i.e. a total of eight subjects.

In order to satisfy the entry requirements for programmes that qualify you for admission to higher education, you must have pass grades in:

  • Swedish/Swedish as a Second Language
  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Pass grades in a further nine subjects, i.e. a total of twelve subjects

For entry to the Business Management and Economics Programme (ekonomiprogrammet), Humanities Programme (humanistiska programmet), and Social Science Programme (samhällsvetenskapsprogrammet), four of the nine subjects passed must be geography, history, social sciences and religion.

For entry to the Natural Science Programme (naturvetenskapsprogrammet) and the Technology Programme (teknikprogrammet), three of the nine subjects passed must be biology, physics and chemistry.

For entry to the Arts Programme (estetiska programmet), pass grades must be attained in any nine subjects.

Pupils who do not meet the entry requirements

If you do not have the necessary diploma for entry, you can instead choose to apply to an  introductory programme (introduktionsprogram): preparatory education (preparandutbildning), programme-oriented individual options (programinriktat individuellt val), vocational introduction (yrkesintroduktion), individual options (individuellt alternativ), and language introduction (språkintroduktion).

Language proficiency

When a pupil from another Nordic country is to start school in Sweden, the Swedish school will assess the pupil’s abilities in Swedish to see whether their language skills are good enough for the pupil to keep up with the tuition.

If the pupil lacks sufficient skills, he or she is offered teaching in Swedish as a Second Language.

It is a requirement that pupils attending a Swedish upper secondary school understand enough Swedish that they can keep up, and that they meet the general entry requirements in mathematics and English.

Mother tongue teaching

A pupil who has a parent/guardian with a different mother tongue to Swedish is entitled to mother tongue language teaching if that language is spoken daily in the home and if the pupil has basic knowledge of the language. If the parent/guardian has a national minority language as a mother tongue, the pupil must be offered mother tongue language teaching even if the language is not spoken daily in the home. The national minority languages are Finnish, Meänkieli (Tornedal Finnish), Sami (all dialects), Romany Chib, and Yiddish.

Grades from other countries

For upper secondary and vocational programmes, the pupil’s previous education and language proficiency will be compared with the level of the corresponding year group in the Swedish school. Foreign grades can be validated in three ways: 1) the pupil takes tests in the Swedish courses; 2) the school principal awards the pupil a grade E (pass) if the pupil’s grades, certificates or similar show the level required for a pass grade. The school principal may not award a higher grade than E; or 3) the pupil receives tuition in a course and attains a grade.

Upper secondary education in another Nordic country

Swedish upper secondary educational institutions that accept Nordic students

A Swedish educational institution may apply for a state grant in Sweden for pupils from the other Nordic countries. You can find more information about this in the Upper Secondary School Ordinance (Chapter 12).

A Nordic pupil can be admitted to an upper secondary programme if the pupil, through their previous education in another Nordic country, has undergone an education that corresponds to a Swedish compulsory school education and satisfies the admission requirements for the programme they have applied for. However, the pupil is exempted from the requirement for a pass grade in Swedish. Alternatively, the pupil from another Nordic country is regarded as equivalent to applicants from the municipality in which the educational programme the pupil is applying for is arranged.

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