Two students reading in a library in Uppsala, Sweden.

University or university college?

What’s the difference between different types of higher education institutions in Sweden?

Two slightly different terms are still used in Sweden to describe institutions of higher education: university (universitet) and university college (högskola). The formal difference is that the former enjoys the unrestricted right to award master, licentiate and PhD degrees while the latter does not. Most university colleges do not award PhDs. However, the Swedish Higher Education Authority can decide, on application by a university college, whether it should be permitted to confer doctoral or licentiate degrees. Some university colleges have been granted the right to do so in specific fields of study.

As for the right to award lower level degrees, there is normally no difference between a university and a university college. A degree conferred by a university college is equivalent to a degree awarded by a university.

Although there is a formal distinction between a Swedish university and university college, the name of the higher education institution may not always indicate whether it is a university or a university college. Most university colleges call themselves ‘universities’ in English, and, conversely, some universities are called högskola in Swedish, even though they have university status.

What does differ from institution to institution, however, is what is on offer in terms of programmes, departments and faculties. The specialisation of each institution has often developed as a result of close, long-standing collaboration with local industries and the business community, which provides a unique experience regardless of whether it’s a university or university college.

Which terms are used on this website?

On, we use the term ‘university’ when referring to both universities and university colleges. Sometimes, we name both. At other times, we use the term ‘higher education institution’. For the purposes of applying for admission or scholarships, these terms are all interchangeable. You follow the same steps whether you’ve applied to a university or a university college.


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