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How to Build Your Own Bachelor Studies in Sweden

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The Laughing Crow is a moniker whose voice I borrow: a rascal who is abrasive but honest, curious, and outgoing.


Lost on Your Way to a Degree?

Twice a year, once in spring and once in autumn, new courses and programs open up for students to apply to. Many people who study full-time choose to sign up for one of the programs where the path to a degree is structured. Your choices may be limited, but they are considered useful to most students.

However, if you don't have that kind of time, don't want to follow the predetermined specializations or are not selected for a program, that doesn't mean your chances for a degree have flown away.

Instead of a program, it is well possible to build up a degree yourself, using a final course (Kandidatkurs) which capstones courses that qualify for a bachelor's. To know where to go, you first need to know how a bachelor/kandidat is built up and what kind of course combinations are valid.

Then, you need to decide your goal (freedom, time, duplicating a program) and build up your degree program. Finally, you need to ensure that your plan is valid and supported by the university.


What Makes for a Degree in Sweden?

Sweden's college education system is based around the Kandidat, effectively an undergraduate degree or bachelor's studies in other countries. These programs are measured in a total number of points (180 points, equivalent to three years of study full time) and are capstoned with a bachelor's course (Kandidatkurs) where you will write a thesis on a relevant topic and defend it.

In most cases, the result is effectively a bachelor of science or arts degree. Most of these programs are on-campus and at 100% speed, so participating in one can be equivalent to a full-time job.

Entering such a program requires signing up for it when it opens (September for programs that start in Spring and April for programs that begin in Autumn) and going through the selection process. If you are selected, you join the program and from there, simply follow the course selection as given. Sometimes, you may have a choice in specialization or courses or get to choose to do an internship, but these programs are set on the whole.


Reasons to Go Beyond a Program

There are three main reasons why you might not be able to, or want to, join a program like this:

  1. You signed up for a program but were not selected to join.
  2. You have other obligations, such as a job, which prevent you from studying full-time.
  3. You have a very specific goal with your studies that is not met with a program.

For those not selected, your aim might be to do coursework adjacent to or included in your desired program. This way, you can either keep applying every period until you are allowed in, with your completed coursework allowing you to skip certain courses in the program since you already completed them. Alternatively, doing extra classes means that once you join, you have a broader academic background for those studies.

Or, you might choose to follow a set of courses as close as possible to the course you were not selected for and hope to combine them into a bachelor's that approaches the program in value so that you can effectively enter the labor market or move on to a Master's degree.

If you do not have the time to study full-time, you might decide to do courses at half speed and combine them into a bachelor's degree. While this might take you twice as long, you could then possibly combine it with a job at the same time.

And finally, if what you want is simply not available, you may have to build your own structure to achieve your goals.


Explaining the Point and Percentage System

In Sweden, a year has 60 academic points (ECTS), divided into two 30-point semesters. A three-year program has 3x60 or 180 points in it.

Most courses come as either 7,5 or 15 points each. So an average semester might have two 15-point courses, four 7.5-point courses, or one 15-pointer and two 7.5-point courses. When you look at the requirements for a Kandidatkurs, they often specify a minimum number of points in a specific topic, which refers to these points. Points are points; it does not matter how fast you achieve them.

Then there is studietakt, or how much time is spent on achieving the course. 100% means it takes as much time as the standard for the number of points. So a 15-point course takes half a semester. A 7.5-point course takes a quarter of a semester to complete.

But if it is 50%, this halves the speed of tuition. There is more time between assignments, and the end date for the course is later. A 15-point course would take the whole semester, and a 7.5-point course at 50% would take half a semester instead. At 25%, the same happens.

What you could imagine for yourself—and this is very important to realize—is that the points indicate the "weight" of the course, while the studietakt indicates the size of the time slot it would take.

For someone who has issues with time, it is important to select courses with a speed that allows you to achieve what you need but in a longer period of time.

See the picture below for some comparisons of how these two combine and can make wildly different calendars:


As you can see, the first row shows two courses of 15 points in each semester. That means 100% (60 points per year, divided by 4 is 15).

The second line also represents 100% studies, combining 7.5- and 15-point courses in each semester.

The third line is more haphazard, with the 15-point courses being 100%, but the 7.5-point courses being followed at 50%—even though they each are worth 7.5 points, they take up the same slot as a 15-point course would.

But there are more options.

The final line shows, for example, what it would look like to do a 7.5-point course at 50%, then following two of those courses simultaneously, bringing it back up to 100%. The last 15-point course takes the whole semester at 50%, taking up as much time as a 30-point course would.


Examples of Non-program Bachelor Studies

Let's look at several examples of how you could put together your own bachelor's degree in Sweden without following a program. Note that in all cases, 30 points will be allocated to your bachelor thesis (15) and the course that teaches you how to write and defend that thesis (15).

You always need 90 points in your major, including the thesis, and the total points must add up to 180.

Example one: Jessica

Jessica wants to study law, but she knows that she will emigrate from Sweden to Spain after her studies. She studies 90 points in law, 60 points in beginner and advanced Spanish courses and 30 points in European relations. She will have a bachelor's degree in law and is well-positioned to find a role in Spain.

Example two: Gregor

As a great fan of music and with a great interest in Scandinavian history and language, Gregor decides to major in musical studies (90 points) and take a minor in history (60 points) and the 30-point course collection "Scandinavian Languages" so that he can work with music in any of the Scandinavian languages.

Example three: Elin

With a full-time job as a travel advisor, Elin does not have the time to complete the degree in linguistics she always wanted. She discovers that most of the courses in Linguistics are offered as 50% courses on campus, so she arranges for her to do her work remotely from there on certain days. These constitute 60 points, and she needs 30 points for her Kandidatkurs. For the remaining 90 points, she selects a wide array of language courses in German, Dutch, French and Spanish.

Multiple Degrees and Exceptions

If you already have a degree, it is very possible to use this method to obtain a second degree. The two ways in which this is most commonly done are as follows:

  1. You already have a bachelor's degree, and you can add a few courses to your minor and then acquire your bachelor's degree through a second thesis. This turns your minor into a second major.
  2. You took many courses in your life but have not decided what to do with all the excess course points you've accumulated through your ongoing studies. As long as the combined points equal to exceed 150, and enough of them qualify to be from the same major, you could add them together into another bachelor's degree.

In this second case, imagine that you'd do a single, 15-point course every semester aside from your full-time job (so 30 points per year)—you are studying at half speed. This means that your first bachelor's would take six years. But after that, you could achieve another bachelor's every three years or a master's in four.

In reality, it would cost you much less because you will have courses that you are exempt from because you've already followed them in your previous bachelor's (such as the preparation course for writing your thesis) or because one of your courses grants effective competence in that field.

Plenty of people achieve a doctorate in their major over time by focusing on studies next to their job. At half speed, this would take at least 18 years (6 for bachelor's, 4 for master's, and 8 for PhD).

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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