1. Terminology

2. Typology of provision

2.1 State education provision 

2.2 Non-state education provision 

2.3 Other types of schools 

3. Governance and regulations

3.1 Regulations by distinct levels of education

3.2 Supplementary private tutoring 


  1. Terminology

The Swedish Education Act (800/2010) applies and provides equal terms for all education providers and schools in Sweden, whether state or non-state actors, from early childhood to secondary level. Defining the non-state actors, this includes independent schools approved by the Schools Inspectorate and follows the same curricula and regulations as the state-governed municipal schools. Independent schools are privately managed and financed by public grants, including ownership from private companies, foundations, co-operative societies and non-profit associations and non-governmental organizations. An independent school is specifically defined as a “school unit at which an individual conducts education within the school system in the form of a pre-school class, compulsory school, compulsory special school, upper secondary school, upper secondary special school or such after-school center”. An independent preschool is defined as a “preschool unit at which an individual conducts education in the form of preschool”. Finally, an international school is defined as a “school where education does not follow such a curriculum as is referred to in ch.11 without another country’s curriculum or an international curriculum, and which is primarily aimed at students who reside in Sweden for a limited time”. No definition specifically mentions non-state actors.

The Swedish Higher Education Act (1434/1992) defines the provisions for the higher state-governed -and private education institutions and public universities. These provisions are supplemented by the Higher Education Ordinance (100/1993). The Higher Education Act likewise allows for privately managed independent institutions financed by public grants, without defining them specifically. These institutions are only referred to as “independent course providers entitled to award a qualification”. The Act Concerning Authority to Award Qualifications (792/1993) defines an “independent education provider” as an “individual or legal person”.

  1. Typology of provision

2.1 State education provision

State schools

In Sweden, primary (school year 1-6) and lower secondary school (year 7-9) are compulsory starting from the age of 7. Education is free from pre-primary to higher education level in state institutions. The compulsory education is provided by municipal and independent schools, with most students attending municipal schools. In the academic year 2016/17, there were 4,847 compulsory schools in Sweden, of which 4,007 (83%) were municipal and 820 (17%) independent. In all compulsory schools, 920,997 pupils attended in 2013, with 794,860 (86%) pupils in municipal schools, 125,960 (14%) pupils in independent schools and 168 pupils in the 5 state governed Sami schools. Sami schools are available from Grades 1 – 6 and include a curriculum and syllabus in the Sami language, based on the Sami culture.

Upper secondary school (3 years, beginning at age 16) is not compulsory. However, the majority of pupils (87.5%) continues into upper secondary education (OECD, 2014f Improving schools in Sweden). The upper secondary school programs are categorized into 6 higher education preparatory programs and 12 vocational programs, attaining 54% and 27% of upper secondary pupils respectively. The education is organized by the municipalities, upper secondary school associations, county councils and independent education providers. In the academic year 2016/17, there were 1 313 upper secondary schools in Sweden, of which 428 (33%) were independently managed. In 2019, 380 409 pupils aged 16 to 24 attended upper secondary education.

Non-state managed, state schools

No information was found.

Non-state funded, state schools

No information was found.

2.2 Non-state education provision

Independent, non-state schools

There are no independent non-state funded schools within compulsory education (primary and secondary education) in Sweden.

State-funded (government-aided), non-state schools

Independent schools or free schools (friskolor) in Sweden are established and managed by private institutions, accounting for 17% of primary and lower-secondary schools (823 of 4,829 schools) and 15% of pupils (167,000 of 1,080,000 pupils) in 2019/20. This includes management by joint-stock companies, economic associations, non-profit organizations and foundations. Joint-stock (for-profit) companies are the most common independent education providers, accounting for 64% of the pupils attending independent schools at primary and lower-secondary level in 2015. The independent schools in Sweden can take different profiles. In this landscape, independent schools with a general profile and without religious or special pedagogical approaches, have come to dominate. Of pupils in independent primary and lower-secondary school in 2015, 88.3% are educated in a general profile, 6.4% in schools with religious profiles, 3.6% in schools with Waldorf pedagogy, 1.4% in international schools and 0.2% are educated in national boarding schools. At the upper-secondary level, 97.6% of independent school pupils attend schools with a general profile. Only a tiny fraction attended schools with other profiles (0.9% in religious schools, 0.7% in National Boarding School, 0.6% in Waldorf schools and 0.3% in international schools).

On the same conditions as municipality schools, independent schools are funded by grants from the municipality and state. Grant-aided independent schools are not permitted to charge pupil’s fees, application fees, queue fees or registration fees. An exception is made for international schools and national boarding schools which are eligible to charge reasonable top-up fees for additional costs that are not covered by the state or municipality grants. Independent schools must follow the same curricula as municipal schools, although, with the possibility of a different orientation or profile that differs from the municipal schools.  They are regulated in the Education Act and a special ordinance on grant-aided independent schools.

International schools cater to students who temporarily reside in Sweden (such as children of diplomats or researchers) or who wish to have an education with an international dimension. These schools follow international curricula, while the language of instruction is often a foreign language.

Sweden also has several boarding schools which primarily organize education for children of foreign-based Swedish parents. Both municipalities and non-state providers may provide nation-wide boarding education.

Contracted, non-state schools

No information was found.

2.3 Other types of schools


Home schooling has no tradition in Sweden and is very rare. It is legal upon request in exceptional circumstances for health reasons, studying in hospitals or similar. Religion or ethical reasons are not considered as exceptional circumstances, according the Education Act. In the rare cases of home schooling, the municipality of the school that otherwise would have provided the education is responsible for the teaching.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the government ordered all schools to adapt their educational activities through remote and distance learning. There were also amendments introduced to extend the possibility of schools to use remote learning and distance education, in addition to amendments to increase the possibility of schools adapting their activities to counter the spread of COVID-19.

Market contracted (Voucher schools)

In 1992, Sweden adopted a nation-wide voucher system as a means of promoting market competition and parental choice within the education system, reflected in the Independent School Reform 1992. This allowed independent providers to receive state funding based on a “virtual voucher” system in which schools were provided with per-student funding based on the average operating costs in municipal schools. This was combined with a school choice reform in 1994, which allowed parents to choose between different schools. The funding was then reformed so that the voucher (in the form of  grant funded by the student’s home municipality) would follow the students to their school of choice with the aim to “achieve the largest possible freedom for children and parents to choose schools”. Voucher schools are prohibited from engaging in student selection based on ability or family background or charging add-on tuition fees, but the ownership of subsidized providers is not restricted (allowing for both for-profit and non-profit actors to receive vouchers). These reforms, coupled with increased levels of decentralization in education administration, changed the Swedish education landscape fundamentally and gave rise to a new form of “independent school” whose operation depends on funding through vouchers. This voucher reform also considerably increased the number of independent schools and their share of enrolment.

Unregistered/Unrecognized schools

No information was found.

3. Governance and regulations

The Ministry of Education and Research and the central authorities connected with it are responsible for the central governance and regulation of the Swedish educational system (including state and independent provision) from preschool to higher education level. The Swedish National Agency for Education is the largest central authority in the school area and sets the framework for education and non-state provision at all levels, in accordance with the Education Act. It is specifically responsible for examining the quality and education outcomes in municipal and grant-aided independent schools and supervising their activities. The Swedish Schools Inspectorate conducts regular supervision of all schools (state and independent) and ensures that local authorities and independent schools comply with existing laws and regulations. The Inspectorate is also responsible for the licensing of new independent schools. Higher education for both state and independent providers is administered at the central level by the Ministry of Education and Research, the Swedish Higher Education Authority (responsible for quality assurance), and the Swedish Council of Higher Education (responsible for admission to study programs).

Sweden has a decentralized education system, piloted by goals and learning outcomes defined by the government at central level. Each municipality is responsible for implementing steering documents and organizing the education locally. This includes municipality governance of preschool, preschool class, compulsory school, upper secondary school, municipality adult education, Swedish tuition for immigrants and leisure-time centers (EU Key features). Municipalities are also responsible for the approval and quality assurance of non-state education within their jurisdiction (including preschools and primary/secondary schools).

Vision: Independent education providers were not a widespread competitive alternative to municipality schools until the Independent School Reform in 1992. This reform allowed parents and their children to choose among tuition-free schools, either municipal or private. Further, the reform provided the independent schools with public funding. The independent schools must be approved by the National Agency for Education and must be open for all. They are obliged to abide the Education Act but can be governed by their own rules (Skolverket). The Education Act (800/2010) provides basic principles for non-state education from pre-school up to upper secondary school and is accompanied by the Education Ordinance (185/2011) and Upper Secondary School Ordinance (2039/2010) which supplement and clarifies the regulations. In the name of competition neutrality, independent schools are subject to most of the same standards as municipal schools. The Higher Education Act (1432/1992) regulates non-state, post-upper secondary education and are supplemented by the Higher Education Ordinance.

There was no specific statement found on the government’s vision for independent education providers in the future. The Swedish National Roadmap for the European Research Area 2019–20 and Sweden’s National Life Sciences Strategy mainly aim for Sweden to become an internationally attractive country for investments in research and development, as well as increase its attractiveness as a study destination. This is planned to be achieved through a structure of “long-term collaboration between the country’s business incubators” as well as “public and private investments in research and development” that should continue to “exceed EU goals”.

3.1 Regulations by distinct levels of education

In Sweden, early childhood care and education takes form of preschool (children aged 1-5), preschool class (children aged 6, in family day care homes), open preschool (for stay-at-home parents), care at uncomfortable times (needs-based care at times that preschool or leisure-time centers are not offered), and leisure-time centres (educational group facilities). Preschool class is, since 2018, compulsory for all children in Sweden from the age of 6. Municipalities are obligated to provide preschool for children aged 1-5 years upon request from the parents. In 2019, 85.4% of children aged 1-5 attended preschool. Of the preschools, 20% were run independently in 2016/17 (2 708 independent preschools and 9 813 municipal preschools). Of the preschool classes, 16% of children enrolled in independent schools in 2016/17 (582 independent and 3 040 municipal schools).

The most common form of independent preschool operators are cooperatives (accounting for 43% of preschools) which, like non-profit associations, are commonly run by parents. This is followed by limited companies (38%), non-profit associations (9%), and a remaining smaller proportion run by foundations, private firms, trading companies and religious communities.


Registration and approval: Independent preschools and preschool classes may be operated by companies, associations, foundations or private individuals. To register an independent school, you must apply to, and be approved as an independent organizer by the Swedish School Inspectorate. The applicant must show for access to suitable premises, financing for a stable operation and that the activity lives up to the goals of education stated in the Education Act and curriculums. Since 2019, the applicant must also meet requirements regarding experience and suitability of the independent school authority and owners. Child/staff ratio and group size are not regulated at the preschool level. When the application is approved, the final approval of establishment is done by the municipality where the education is provided. In the establishment of an independent school could infer negative consequences for the school system in the municipality, the School Inspectorate can deny entitlement to municipal recourses.

License: Independent preschools receive formal approval to operate by their home municipality, while the Swedish Schools Inspectorate decides whether to approve applications from prospective preschools.

Financial operation

Profit-making: In Sweden, unlike in most countries, there are no ownership restrictions for grant-aided independent providers. This meaning that for-profit and non-profit providers are treated equally in the approval process. Currently, there are no restrictions on dividend pay-outs or profits in for-profit education providers. 

Taxes and subsidies: Independent preschools receive grants by their home municipalities which cover operational expenses in pedagogical activities and care, material and equipment, meals, administration, VAT, and infrastructure. The municipalities are responsible for ensuring that the operations of grant-aided independent preschools meet the minimum requirements in quality and safety, which are subject to the same laws and allocation frameworks that apply to municipal preschools.

Quality of teaching and learning

Curriculum and education standards: Preschool is covered by a separate preschool curriculum, with the staff responsible for determining how the curriculum goals are to be achieved. Meanwhile, preschool class and leisure-time centers are covered in the curriculum for compulsory schools. All curriculums are regulated through the Education Act and monitored by the Swedish National Agency for Education. The Education Act and the associated curriculums stipulates that the purpose of preschools is to promote all children’s development and learning, and lifelong desire to learn. The education should also establish respect for human rights and fundamental democratic values on which Swedish society is based. There are a few preschools which offer alternative pedagogies (such as Waldorf and Montessori), while others specialize in sports, sciences, arts and crafts, or nature and ecology.

Teaching profession: There are no official minimum qualifications for working with children in Sweden in municipal or independent preschools. However, the staff should have education or experience in promoting the development and learning of children and there must be at least one educated preschool teacher with a degree in preschool education. All preschool teachers must additionally be licensed and approved by the Swedish National Agency for Education, as stipulated in the Education Act (800/2010). Teacher salaries and working conditions in independent preschools are negotiated by the principal organizer and teachers’ trade union. All salaries are individual and determined locally.

Equitable access

Fee-setting: The compulsory preschool class (age 6) is free of charge for the pupil. However, municipal and grant-aided independent preschools may charge a fee for preschool. All fees must be set in accordance to Sweden’s maximum fee policy, which assures affordable childcare and that no fees exceeds the maximum limit. The fee is based on a percentage of the households combined income and how many children in the household attending preschool or leisure-time centres. The income-based fee has a capped limit that cannot be exceeded. Each home municipality is responsible for arranging the transport of children who attend independent preschools under the same conditions that apply to pupils who have chosen a different preschool than the one in which the municipality has placed them in.

Admission selection and processes: Independent preschools are required to be open to all children of preschool age, unless the preschool specifically caters to children with special educational needs (in which case it may limit its admissions accordingly). If there is no place for the admission of all applicants, the selection must be made according to conditions approved by the Swedish Schools Inspectorate.

Policies for vulnerable groups: According to the Education Act (800/2010), children who, due to physical, mental or other reasons, are in need of additional support in their development, must be given the special needs support that they require. The principal of each preschool (whether state or independent) is responsible for ensuring this support so that the child is given the opportunity to develop and learn according to the curriculum. Independent preschools which cater to children with special educational needs are provided with additional grants by municipalities, which are individually determined based on the child’s needs.

Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability

Reporting requirements: Each preschool is required evaluate its own activities and submit an annual quality report to its principal organizer on the extent to which goals are achieved, The Swedish National Agency for Education draws up the general guidelines for quality reporting, while teachers and other preschool staff participate in the reports.

Inspection: The Swedish Schools Inspectorate is responsible for the evaluation and inspection of all preschools (state and independent) and ensuring that local authorities and independent providers comply with the relevant laws and regulations. Inspectors are mainly recruited among teachers and teacher trainers but can also be government practitioners or local authorities.

Child assessment: Special assessments are made of children’s knowledge and development in preschool by the preschool teachers (consulting with staff) to determine whether the child has reached the knowledge requirements (Education Act 800/2010). If it is feared that the child will not meet the knowledge requirements, special support is planned and provided.

Sanctions: In case of the mismanagement of the independent preschool, the School Inspectorate may apply sanctions or pressure in other forms at the provider’s expense. If the education provider disregards its obligations, the school’s licence to operate may be revoked or state subsidies may be withdrawn.


Registration and approval: To register an independent primary (school year 1-6), lower-secondary (school year 7-9) or upper secondary (3 years starting from age 16) school, providers must be approved as an independent organizer by the Swedish School Inspectorate. While all forms of ownership are allowed (including for-profit and non-profit providers), the Inspectorate must consider whether the establishment of the school “generates long-term negative economic consequences, or pedagogical or organizational difficulties, for the municipal organization”. The applicant must additionally show for access to suitable premises, financing for a stable operation and that the activity lives up to the goals of education stated in the Education Act and pay the required registration fee. Applying for establishment of an independent primary or lower-secondary school likewise requires fulfilling the regulations stipulated in the Education Ordinance. For upper secondary schools, the same condition applies for a separate ordinance. An additional ordinance applies for all independent education providers. The Swedish School Inspectorate can reject applications if the teacher-student ratio is not based on the prescribed standard.

License: Once the application is approved by the Swedish Schools Inspectorate, the final approval of establishment is done by the municipality where the education is provided.

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH): Access to WASH facilities in schools is regulated through the building regulations from the Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning, as well as recommendations from other relevant government authorities. 

Financial operation

Profit-making: In Sweden, there are no ownership restrictions for grant-aided independent providers including no restrictions on dividend pay-outs or school profits. For-profit independent schools  are permitted and are eligible for state and municipal funding equivalent to non-profit independent schools. This is one of the only voucher programs that allows for-profit schools to operate on more-or-less equal terms with non-profit schools.

Taxes and subsidies: All approved independent schools are entitled to municipal grants and state grants, the amount of which is determined by each municipality depending on the school’s commitments and student needs. Financial resources are allocated based on the same conditions that apply to municipal schools and are set to cover all the school’s operational costs. This includes per-student operating costs, and property expenditures such as rents and interest on loans. The funding does not cover buildings, amortization payments or other capital assets. Further, for establishment of a new independent school or for schools that seek to expand, no up-front capital is provided by the municipalities. This means that new providers must either seek funding on the private market to buy or build a new school or rent existing buildings. International schools may also apply for state funding. Boarding schools are provided with state grants for students of foreign-based Swedish parents, while all other students are allocated resources based on the same criteria that apply to municipal schools. Costs that are not covered by the municipality or state grants in international or boarding schools may be covered by fees charged to students. If the establishment of an independent school could infer negative consequences for the school system in the municipality, the School Inspectorate can deny entitlement to municipal recourses.

Quality of teaching and learning

Curriculum and education standards: Grant-aided independent schools are required to follow the national curriculum and syllabi. The Swedish National Agency for Education sets the learning standards and curriculum on national level. The standards and regulations are covered in the Education Act, which is accompanied by the Education Ordinance for compulsory school and the Upper Secondary School Ordinance.  For grant-aided independent schools also applies a supplementary ordinance. A national curriculum is set for compulsory school, preschool, preschool class and school-age educare. This is updated and revised for 2021. For upper secondary school, a separate national curriculum applies. The independent schools must follow the national curriculum but may vary with special orientations and teaching methods. Furthermore, compulsory school, preschool class and leisure-time centres have to organize its teaching in accordance with the national teaching plan. Likewise, upper secondary school is covered by a separate teaching plan. Similar to municipal schools, independent schools must be run based on democratic values, with their activities governed by openness, tolerance, and objectivity. Within this framework, independent schools may have a denominational orientation. However, all religious instruction is required to have scientific foundations and not include any confessional elements. This means, for example, that schools are prohibited from teaching creationism as an alternative to biology. Independent schools are allowed to offer non-instructional religious elements (such as prayers and devotions) and offer in-depth instruction in religious studies, with a focus on one specific faith. Students can also be offered tuition in their mother tongue in certain in subjects, especially in schools with high proportions of immigrant students. Schools with a language profile may teach in a language other than Swedish.

Textbooks and learning materials: Teaching material is distributed to pupils by the school and is free of charge. This includes textbooks from various publishers and other materials. Information and communication technology such as computers are a commonly used tool in teaching. The methods and tools are not regulated in the Swedish school system; thus, the usage of information and communication technology may vary between different schools. And teachers.

Teaching profession: Teacher qualifications for municipal and independent schools are regulated by the Education Act (800/2010) and specific ordinance which requires all teachers to have an official license. To apply for a certification, teachers must first have a university diploma of education for teachers. Only teachers with a certification are entitled to permanent employment. Provisions on eligibility and terms of employment also do not apply to teachers in Waldorf schools. It is possible to work without certification for a limited time. Some groups of teachers are exempt from the certification requirements, such as mother tongue teachers and teachers of vocational subjects. For teachers in grant-aided schools, salaries and working conditions are negotiated by the principal organizer and the teachers’ trade union. General labour conditions apply, as well as promotion and work content regulations set in the Education Act (800/2010). For some teachers in independent schools, negotiations may take place with the assistance of an employer organization and the teachers’ trade union. Teachers in state schools have their salaries and general working conditions negotiated  by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions through teacher trade unions. Responsibility of recruitment lies with the municipalities or the schools, which are responsible for publishing posts, requesting applications and selecting candidates.

Corporal punishment: Corporal punishment has been forbidden in the education system in Sweden since 1958. This prohibition stated in law in 1979 was the first in the world of its kind.

Other safety measures and Covid-19: The National Agency for Education provides education providers at all levels with guidelines for the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the Education Act (800/2010), all students are entitled to at least 3 health visits that include general health checks.

Equitable access

Fee-setting: Grant-aided independent schools must be free of charge and are not permitted to charge pupil’s fees, application fees, queue fees or registration fees. This with an exception for international schools and boarding schools. These schools only educate 1% of primary and lower-secondary students and 1.6% of upper secondary students.

Admission selection and processes: Independent schools must be open to all students who are entitled to an equivalent education within the state education system. They are prohibited from discriminating against students based on ability, socioeconomic status, faith, or ethnicity. In case of oversubscriptions, schools are not allowed to utilize other selection criteria other than the students’ place in waiting lists, proximity to residence, and sibling priority (Education Act 800/2010). In 2011, the admission requirements to enter upper secondary school were tightened. Prior to this, eligibility for upper secondary school only required a passing grade in the subjects of Mathematics, English and Swedish. Today, those choosing to continue with a vocational or higher education preparatory program are required to achieve passing grades in a total of 8 and 12 subjects for the different programs respectively.

Policies for vulnerable groups: The Education Act stipulates the pupil’s rights to receive special support. The National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools (SPSM) is responsible for the overall support for the special needs of children, adolescents and adults with disabilities. The agency offers support and funding to school management in matters of special needs education.

The Education Act stipulates persuasive rights to the five national minority groups in Sweden. The National Agency for Education is responsible for the implementation of certain measures in the strategy of including the minorities. The five minority groups are; Jews, Roma, Sami, Swedish Finnish and Tornedalers.

Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability

School board: The management of each independent school may vary depending on the provider (with no legal requirement for particular composition). This includes different management and ownership forms, different sizes, and different avenues of education and pedagogical methods. The principal of the school has the central role and responsibility of steering the organization into reaching the required goals and following the applicable laws and regulations. The responsibilities of the principle are described in the Education Act and are largely about leading and coaching staff, developing the operation, managing the work environment and finances of the school. If there are special reasons for a school to have a special pedagogical orientation, the management of the school can be exercised by several people.

Reporting requirements: All schools, whether independent or municipal, are required to have a documented systematic quality work, according to The National Education Act. This documentation must be presented upon request during formal inspections of the school’s operations. The Swedish national Agency for Education has formulated guidance for schools in the development of their documented systematic quality work.

School inspection: The state has the overall responsibility for supervision, follow-up and evaluation of the education system in Sweden. The regulations concerning school evaluation at primary and secondary level are set out in the Education Act with associated ordinances for each level. The main responsibility lies within the municipalities, with the mission of planning and running the schools, inspecting, following up and evaluating them. The Schools Inspectorate, as the central authority under the Swedish National Agency for Education, ensures that the municipality and manager of independent schools lives up to the quality assessments, laws and regulations. The Swedish Schools Inspectorate also inspects all providers every 3 years, which includes announced inspection visits to independent schools. The Inspectorate also carries out unannounced inspection visits, although only in exceptional cases.

Student assessment: The National Agency for Education is responsible for the national test system and Sweden’s participation in international knowledge assessments. This includes taking part of international survey such as PISA, ICCS, ESLC, TIMSS, TIMSS Advanced and PIRLS, with the objective to examine how the national goals of education is fulfilled in comparison to other countries. The National Agency prescribes to what extent independent schools shall participate in national course examinations. Moreover, the Swedish Schools Inspectorate may, upon application, approve for an independent school to arrange examinations and issue grades in accordance with the provisions that apply to an equivalent municipal school. Finally, all independent schools are required to give their students grades at the end of each school term (starting from 6th grade) and carry out mandatory National Proficiency Tests (NPTs). At upper secondary level, there are mandatory tests in English, Swedish, and mathematics.

Diplomas and degrees: A programme in upper-secondary education may lead to an upper secondary diploma. These are divided into higher education preparatory programmes (6 national programmes) and vocational programmes (12 national programmes). Since 2015, Sweden has a framework for qualifications called SeQF, comprising all levels of education, based on the European Qualifications Framework for Life Long Learning (EQF-LLL). This with the aim to facilitate recognition, comparability and cross-boarder mobility.

Sanctions: In case of mismanagement of the independent school, the School Inspectorate may apply sanctions or pressure in other forms at the provider’s expense. If the education provider disregards its obligations, the school’s licence to operate may be revoked. If the deficiencies are considered serious enough, the government may temporarily close the school down until they have been corrected. Independent schools that fail to meet the requirements may be permanently closed down.

The tertiary education system in Sweden is relatively flexible, in comparison to many other countries. Higher education and research take place at 15 state universities (universitet) and 16 state university colleges (högskolor). These public sector Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) account for 90 percent of the total number of students. There are also a number of independent organizers with the right to award qualifications (12 institutions). These consist of grant-aided and private institutions. Grant-aided institutions receive significant funding from the state and are referred to as independent (not private) education providers. There are currently three independent HEIs that are entitled to award either first, second and some third-cycle qualifications, followed by a selection of independent HEIs with limited entitlement of qualifications. There are also 23 private higher education providers that lack degree-awarding powers, but operate legally in Sweden. These institutions are not eligible, nor qualified for official degree-awarding. Private institutions without public funding may operate legally without approval or quality assurance by Swedish authorities. However, if they wish to be eligible for public grants, they must undergo a quality assurance procedure like any other independent school. Apart from higher education, vocational higher education is another form of tertiary education in Sweden.

The overall responsibility for higher education and research lays with the Swedish Parliament (Riksdag) and the Government.  The regulations are governed through the Higher Education Act (SFS 1434/1992) and the Higher Education Ordinance (SFS 100/1993). However, major sections of these Acts do not apply to independent higher education providers. The activities of these institutions are subject to the Act Concerning Authority to Award Qualifications (1993:792) and in some cases, through contracts with the government.


Registration and approval: According to the Act Concerning Authority to Award Qualifications (792/1993), independent higher education institutions can be established by natural or legal persons. They may be run by companies, foundations, or associations. Providers are entitled to offer courses and programs if they are granted degree-awarding powers.  

License: Independent higher education providers receive authorization by the government to award qualifications and be eligible for government grants. Private institutions without degree-awarding powers and state funding may operate legally without the approval or quality assurance by Swedish authorities. However, they are required to undergo a quality assurance procedure and approval if they wish to be granted degree-awarding powers or make their students eligible for state study grants.

Financial operation

Profit-making: Independent grant aided HEIs are allowed to make profit. However, there are regulations concerning the level of surplus that exceeds 10% the operational costs. This provision should be seen as a limit rule, inducing that HEIs need to explain and motivate any exceeding surplus or deficits. The regulation of surpluses and deficits applies irrespectively of the source of funding. In fee charging HEIs, a general rule is such that fees must cover all operating costs but shall not be set as to rise exceeding surpluses.

Taxes and subsidies: Higher education is financed through state grants, apart from a small number of private, tuition fee-based providers. All accredited higher education institutions (irrespective of ownership) are entitled to funding from the state. The state grants are distributed to each institution based on the number of students and their achievements, with varying remunerations for the various education areas.

Quality of teaching and learning

Curriculum and education standards: The self-governed independent higher education institutions have greater freedom with regards to governance and managements of their affairs. The Higher Education Act sets out what could characterize courses and programs at different levels, followed by the HEIs setting out the curriculum and learning standards of each course and program. The curriculum and learning standards are developed in dialogue with representatives from the HEIs, including teachers, students, employers and the labour market. According to the Act Concerning Authority to Award Qualifications (792/1993), programs offered by independent providers must be based on scholarship or artistic practice and proven experience, and fulfil the qualification requirements for courses and programs in the Higher Education Act (SFS 1434/1992).

Teaching profession: The employment of professors and lecturers are regulated by the Higher Education Act. Apart from this, the HEIs themselves decide which teachers to employ. Teachers at state universities and university colleges may be professors, lecturers, assistant lecturers, post-doctoral fellows, part-time teachers and guest lecturers. There was no specific information found on teacher qualifications for independent education providers.

Equitable access

Fee-setting: Independent HEIs that receive governmental grants are not allowed to charge tuition fees, with all students studying in accredited institutions entitled to receive financial support for their studies. There are a small number of institutions that does not receive grants; thus, they are free to charge tuition fees. These institutions are classified as private. For a long time, Sweden was one of few countries in Europe to offer higher education completely free of charge. The Higher Education Act was changed in 2011, so to offer free higher education for Swedish citizens and for citizens in EU/EEA countries and Switzerland. Incoming students from other countries have to pay an application fee and tuition fees for first and second-cycle studies, unless they are taking part in an exchange program.

Admission selection and processes: All state and independent higher education providers are subject to the Discrimination Act which prohibits the discrimination in admissions processes on the basis of sex, transgender identity or expression, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or age. However, this prohibition does not prevent institutions from applying measures that promote equality between women and men in admissions.

Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability

Board: A HEI is governed by a board which consists of a chair and no more than 14 other members. Eight of the members must be external members appointed by the government on the proposal of the HEI. The board has the ultimate responsibility for all affairs of the institution and ensuring an effective management as well as planning its future development.

Reporting requirements: Higher education institutions are each responsible for the quality of their education and designing their research and education to ensure a high degree of quality. All independent higher education providers with degree-awarding powers are required to produce annual quality reports.  in addition, these institutions have their own appeal board and student representatives to safeguard student legal rights.

Inspection: The Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) is accountable to the Ministry of Education and Research and exercises supervision of the HEIs. This meaning to ensure the compliance with their statutes and regulations that applies to higher education. In a new quality assurance system for higher education 2016-22, standards and guidelines are set for teaching, learning and outcomes. Independent higher education providers that are authorized to award qualifications are obliged to take part in the national monitoring and evaluation of programs. This includes the appraisal of degree awarding powers, assessment of institutions’ quality assurance processes, and program evaluations. However, supervision is limited as many statutes in the Higher Education Ordinance (SFS 100/1993) do not apply to independent providers. The supervision of private institutions without degree-awarding powers is even more limited, with these institutions not subject to program evaluations.

Assessment: No information was found.

Diplomas and degrees : The Ministry of Education and Research is responsible for granting degree-awarding powers to independent institutions (considered a form of accreditation), which are required to undergo a quality assurance process and meet certain criteria to be granted degree-awarding or accredited status. Only independent providers are required to apply to the government directly for this approval, whereas state institutions apply to the UKÄ. Independent HEIs are more restricted than public-sector HEIs regarding regulations of the qualities they wish to award. The independent providers have to apply separately for each qualification they wish to award directly to the government. The application, as for all levels of education, has to demonstrate that the quality of education is assured as stated in the Higher Education Act and supplementary ordinances. If they meet the quality standards, independent providers may award the same kinds of qualifications as those awarded by state institutions, laid down in the Qualifications Ordinance Higher Education Ordinance (SFS 100/1993). These institutions may also issue joint degrees under certain conditions. There are also private education providers that are not entitled to award qualifications according to the Act Concerning Authority to Award Qualifications (792/1993). These institutions offer programs that lead to non-formal qualifications that are not listed in the Qualifications Ordinance.

Sanctions: If independent higher education providers fail to meet the minimum quality standards, their authorization to award qualifications may be revoked. The decision to revoke authority is made by the government at the request of the Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ). If an independent provider awards qualifications without government approval, the government may apply financial penalties and prohibit the institution from awarding any form of qualifications, as stipulated in the Act Concerning Authority to Award Qualifications (792/1993).

3.2 Supplementary private tutoring

In Sweden, shadow education has evolved under the label “homework support”, and has expanded rapidly in recent years under different regulatory contexts. In 2007, the government introduced a household tax-deduction scheme which allowed for private companies to claim tax deductions for offering services in homework support (SFS 346/2007). In 2013, homework support had its own paragraph in regulations (SkU 13:10/2012). However, the tax reform scheme was abolished in 2015 as it was criticized for channelling government resources to private enterprises and only favouring families who were able to access the funds (rather than those who needed them). In subsequent amendments by the Ministry of Education and Research, only schools within the formal education system and non-profit organizations were permitted to apply for government subsidies to offer tutoring services free of charge (Prop 144/2014). These amendments were introduced with the aim to “partly contribute to increased equality” within the educational system.

Following these amendments, both for-profit and non-profit actors provide homework tutoring services in different organizational contexts. For-profit companies sell customized support services to individuals and parents, mainly through one-to-one tutoring in students’ homes, in other meeting places, or online. In contrast, non-profit providers organize tutoring services for students in need in public facilities such as school buildings, libraries, or online. While free homework support within the formal school setting outside of regular school hours has become increasingly common, for-profit private tutoring services have faced challenges in finding competitive alternatives and managing their reduced customer base.


Private tutoring services are established as for-profit private companies. Tutoring services can also be offered by established non-profit organizations, the latter of which are only eligible for government funding.

Financial operation and quality

The Ministry of Education and Research only regulates the tutoring services provided by non-profit organizations which receive government funding. Government grants are only provided to non-profit organizations which are democratically structured, respect the ideas of equality and non-discrimination, have completed at least 2 years of activities, and who wholly or partially focus on helping students with their homework or other schoolwork outside of regular teaching hours (Prop 144/2014). The Swedish National Agency for Education is responsible for administering these grants, prioritizing services catered towards students with low test results. The organization receiving the grants is required to report to the National Agency for Education on how the funds have been used, in addition to having its financial statements examined by a recognized and approved auditor. The homework support provided must be conducted outside of regular school hours, be free of charge, and be offered to all students (regardless of their ability to pay). All activities must be rooted in the Swedish Education Act (800/2010) and based on the national curriculum.

Teaching profession

Homework support provided within school settings must be provided by teachers within the school. If the principal arranges this support in collaboration with a non-profit organization, the organization’s staff may also be used.


This profile was drafted by Jakob Hannerz and has been reviewed by the National Agency for Education (Sweden). 

Last modified:

Tue, 05/04/2022 - 10:59