Adult education

Last updated: 25/1-2024

About Sweden – an orientation about Swedish society.

This text is about adult education. It is common for adults to study in Sweden. Many people study in order to learn a profession. Others study because they want to develop within their profession. Many people also study because it is interesting and fun to learn new things.

This text describes the opportunities for studying as an adult in Sweden.

Everyone is entitled to an education. Basic education must be compulsory and free of charge. Occupational and technical training programmes must be accessible to everyone.

Sweden is a knowledge society. Education is not just a right, but often a must in order to increase one’s chances of getting a job.

Choosing an education programme

If you want to study, you can choose among different programmes depending on what you want to study, whether you have studied before and what method of studying suits you.

Everyone who studies is entitled to an equivalent education and the opportunity to develop according to their own ability. If you have a functional impairment, for example, you are entitled to be provided the aids you need in order to take part in the education programme on the same conditions as other students. All students have different needs and may need different types of support to be successful in their studies.

Everyone is entitled to have the same opportunities to study, regardless of gender. There are also norms in society that influence what education programmes women and men apply to. For example, there are more women than men studying within care services, school and nursing. Men more often study on programmes in engineering and mathematics.

What education opportunities do adults have in the country or countries where you lived previously?

There are many different education programmes for adults

There are programmes at the:

  • Basic level
  • Upper secondary level
  • Post-upper secondary level

If you are uncertain what you can study, you can contact a study guidance counsellor or an occupational guidance counsellor. They can give you support and information to help you make decisions about your study and professional goals. Study and occupational guidance counselling is usually available at adult education institutions in your municipality, such as Komvux, university colleges and universities. Contact your municipality for more information.

Study and occupational counsellors can also help you:

  • request diplomas for your education
  • apply for a place on different education programmes and courses
  • find information about what is required in order to get a place on an education programme or course
  • find other information about education and the labour market

If you are too old to attend compulsory or upper secondary school, you can instead study on municipal adult education programmes or at a folk high school, for example. At the basic level you study subjects that correspond to those taught in compulsory school. At the upper secondary level you take courses that correspond to those taught in upper secondary school.

Municipal adult education is usually called Komvux (short for kommunal vuxenutbildning) in Sweden.

Before you begin your studies, your knowledge will be assessed so that you can begin at the right level. You can study one or several courses in Komvux, and you can study full-time or part-time.

In Komvux, you can also study Swedish for immigrants, SFI.

Once you have been granted a residence permit it is important that you learn Swedish as quickly as possible. This is important in order for you to be able to become established quickly in the community.

Your municipality has to offer you lessons in Swedish for Immigrants. This is known as SFI. You are entitled to attend an SFI course if:

  • You have turned 16 years of age.
  • You lack basic knowledge of the Swedish language.
  • Are registered or will become registered in a municipality.

SFI is intended for people who need to learn basic Swedish. You learn Swedish in order to be able to speak and write in everyday life, in contacts with public authorities and at work.

Lessons are free of charge. You can study full time, part time, or combine lessons with an internship, working life introduction, validation or other programme at Komvux. The course proceeds in steps, and once you have completed one you can go on to the next. You can begin taking SFI lessons at any time during the year. You have to follow an individual study plan.

Contact your municipality for more information about SFI. If you are registered with Arbetsförmedlingen and taking part in the introduction programme, you can contact your case worker at Arbetsförmedlingen.

Komvux as special education is intended for anyone who has an intellectual impairment or has had a brain injury.

In Komvux as special education, you can:

  • study at the secondary or upper secondary level,
  • choose between different courses,
  • study Swedish for immigrants in parallel,
  • attend an occupational training programme,
  • study for an exam that corresponds to special needs upper secondary school,
  • have previous knowledge validated.

If you were trained for a profession in another country, or have worked in a profession in another country, you may need to attend supplementary training in order to be able to work in that profession in Sweden.

Supplementary training programmes are offered at universities and university colleges. They include programmes for:

  • economists
  • engineers
  • nurses
  • social workers
  • information systems engineers
  • doctors
  • teachers

The training programmes are between 1 and 2 years long. You are eligible for financial aid from the Swedish Board of Student Finance, CSN, while you attend a supplementary training programme.

A vocational training programme provides training in a specific profession. You can attend a vocational training programme in Komvux or special needs education for adults. You can also attend a vocational training programme at one of the vocational training colleges.

You will have a lot of contact with companies during the training programme. You will be doing apprenticeships or internships, for example. This will increase your chances of getting a job after you complete the training.

Contact the study and occupational guidance counsellors in your municipality if you have questions about occupational training programmes.

Apprenticeships are a form of occupational training available in Komvux. You can do an apprenticeship in order to get basic occupational training as well as more professional experience. A large part of an apprenticeship is done in a workplace, where you have a supervisor who helps you to learn the profession.

A folk high school is a school for adult students where you can take courses at the basic and upper secondary levels. It is possible to board at many folk high schools while you study there.

Folk high schools offer general as well as specialised courses. You can take general courses instead of upper secondary school and sometimes instead of compulsory school. You can also take specialised courses that focus on a particular subject such as music or art, for example. You can also learn a specific profession.

Each folk high school determines who can study at the school. Folk high schools have their own grading system, but studying there can help you meet general entry requirements for universities and university colleges. Meeting general entry requirements means that you possess the knowledge you need in order to begin higher education studies.

Labour market training programmes focus on professions in which there is a great shortage of adequately trained staff. What programmes are available depends on what the labour market looks like at the time.

There is no guarantee that you will get a job if you attend a labour market training programme, but by doing so you increase your chances of getting a job, and you make yourself more attractive in the labour market.

Another way to study is through distance learning. Distance learning means that you don’t go to a school or university to study, instead you can choose where you are going to study. For example, you can study at home or in a public library.

On some distance learning programmes you only use the internet. Other programmes include meeting teachers and other students on a few occasions each year. Between these meetings you keep in contact via the internet, email or phone.

There are many different types of education you can do through distance learning. You can do short courses as well as longer programmes, and distance learning can be full time or part time.

If you have completed an upper secondary education you can continues studying at the post-upper secondary level, at a university, a university college or in higher vocational education, for example.

If you want to pursue higher education you can study on individual courses or on programmes at university colleges or universities. There is a large selection of courses and programmes to choose from, but they have different admission requirements. The various university colleges and universities offer different programmes and courses. In order to find out what courses and programmes are offered at the different institutions and what admission requirements each course or programme has, visit the following websites:

Qualifications for studying at universities and university colleges

In order to be able to study in higher education you need to have completed earlier education. You need to have a basic qualification in the form of a full upper secondary school diploma from upper secondary school, municipal adult education, or folk high school. You also need to have completed certain specific courses in order to fulfil the requirements of a basic qualification.

Most programmes require you to have special qualifications, and these may differ between different programmes. This usually means that you have to have studied and passed certain specific upper secondary courses, but you may also have to have work experience, work samples to show, or completed higher education courses.

Supplementary studies

If you are not qualified to study on the course or programme you would like to, you have the option of supplementing your qualifications. You can do this by taking courses in municipal adult education or at folk high schools.

Study cycles at universities and university colleges

All courses and programmes at universities and university colleges are divided into three levels, or cycles. These are the first, second and third cycles. Each level is based on the preceding one – if you are going to study at a university or university college for the first time, it will be in the first cycle.

First cycle

You begin by taking a course in a subject or field that does not require previous higher education studies. Most first-cycle programmes are three years long if you study full time.

Second cycle

In order to be admitted to a second-cycle programme you need to have a qualification from at least three years of first-cycle studies, or the corresponding foreign degree or qualification.

You can also study on individual, or freestanding, second-cycle courses if you have done previous first-cycle studies. You don’t need to have a degree.

Third cycle

If you want to study at the third-cycle (or postgraduate) level, you need to have a qualification at the second-cycle (or graduate level). Third-cycle study programmes are two or four years long. When you have passed the programme, you will receive a licentiate or a doctoral degree.

Adult educational associations and study circles

There are also other ways to get an education or develop one’s knowledge. Via an adult educational association, for example, you can learn more about an interest you have or find a new hobby.

An educational association is an organisation that offers study programmes for adults. There are several educational associations that arrange study circles, cultural programmes and other courses and study programmes for adults. A study circle is a group the members of which study something together. This might be, for example, art, music, language or culture. ABF, Medborgarskolan, Folkuniversitetet and SV are some educational associations. Every year, educational associations in Sweden have about 300,000 study circles. They have over two million participants.

You will not receive a qualification after taking part in a study circle or some other programme arranged by an adult educational organisation. But you can learn something new and meet other people with similar interests.

Grants and loans from CSN

Studying in Sweden is most often free of charge. You can apply for different types of grants and loans from the Swedish Board of Student Finance (CSN) to cover your costs while you are studying.

What grants and loans you can apply for depends on how old you are and at what level you are studying.