FAQ about students' legal rights
Our legal experts answers some of the most commonly asked questions about students' legal rights.
The principle of public access to official documents means that as much as possible of what affects the public should be dealt with transparently.
The principle of public access to official documents means that as much as possible of what affects the public should be dealt with transparently. One of the most important components of the principle is that every individual is entitled to access to public documents. This right is laid down in the provisions of Chapter 2 of the Freedom of the Press Act. Anyone who asks to be provided with a public document has the right to do so anonymously and does not, as a rule, have to say what the information is going to be used for. The principle of public access to official documents and the right of access to these documents applies to all public-sector HEIs. The principle of public access to official documents also applies to Chalmers University of Technology and Jönköping University. It is laid down in Section 4 of Chapter 2 of the Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act (2009:400) and the annex to the same statute.
Printed documents, films, tape recordings and electronic information registered in computers are different types of documents in the sense used in the Freedom of the Press Act. If the principle of public access is to apply, they must also be “public” documents. A document becomes public when it is received by or drawn up by a public authority and is in its keeping. The right to access to public documents can only be restricted by legislation, in other words the Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act.
According to the Ordinance on the Registration of Studies at Universities and University Colleges (1993:1153) all HEIs are required to keep records about their students. These include information about entry requirements, selection criteria, students' results, examinations and qualifications awarded. The information in these registers, for instance LADOK, is open to everybody according to the same rules as those that apply to public documents at public authorities.
An examination (answer sheet) should become a public document once it has been given to the students taking part in the examination. There may be grounds for invoking the provisions of the Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act before the examination is held to make it possible to refuse to provide the examination to others.
Examination answers handed in by a student to a HEI are documents that have been received and should be considered public documents that have to be provided on request. The Parliamentary Ombudsman has ruled that examination answers with the examiner's comments do not have to be released until a grade has been determined. This question has not yet been tested in a court of law.
The regulations issued by the National Archives allow public authorities to sift out some of the public documents. These stipulate, for instance, that a written examination (examination answers) may be returned to a student after it has been graded and that examination answers that have not been returned may be sifted out two years after grading. One copy of an answer sheet must always be retained.
The national regulations on admission to higher education can be found in Chapter 7 of the Higher Education Ordinance (1993:100). The Swedish Council for Higher Education is responsible for admissions and information about studies and has issued regulations on general entry requirements and selection. Each HEI must also have its own admission regulations laying down its own requirements.
General entry requirements
Certain prior knowledge is required for access to higher education and this is specified in the entry requirements. Entry requirements are divided into general entry requirements and specific entry requirements. The general entry requirements apply for all higher education programmes. But many programmes also have additional requirements, which are called specific entry requirements. Requirements of this kind must be totally necessary for students to benefit from the programme.
When there are more applicants to a programme than the number of places available selection has to take place. The applicants are first divided into different selection groups. The students in each selection group are ranked on the basis of their qualifications, for instance their upper-secondary school grades. The ones who are ranked highest are then admitted to the programme they applied for.
General entry requirements also apply for second-cycle programmes. Requirements differ depending on whether courses form part of a degree programme or are freestanding. Some second-cycle programmes that lead to the award of a professional qualification may require possession of a specific degree or professional status qualification. HEIs may also lay down their own specific entry requirements. Requirements of this kind must be totally necessary for students to benefit from the programme.
Selection may also take place for admission to second-cycle programmes. This is carried out in the same way as for admission to first-cycle programmes.
Yes, HEIs may base selection on special examinations for no more than one-third of the places offered in a programme. When admission applies to programmes that lead to the award of a qualification in the fine, applied and performing arts, all the places may be allocated on the basis of a special entrance examination.
Appeals against decisions that an applicant does not fulfil the entry requirements for first or second-cycle programmes and decisions not to allow exemption from the entry requirements may be made to the Higher Education Appeals Board. No appeal may be made about selection decisions to the Higher Education Appeals Board.
UKÄ refers questions concerning admission to higher education to the Swedish Council for Higher Education. The council’s task is to be responsible for admissions and information about studying. It can also provide information about the Swedish Scholastic Aptitude Test and how qualifications are assessed.
Independent higher education providers
Independent higher education providers are HEIs that are not in the public sector but run, for example, by a foundation, company or association. Some independent higher education providers are entitled to award the qualifications laid down in the Qualifications Ordinance, Annex 2 to the Higher Education Ordinance, in other words the same kinds of qualifications as those that public-sector HEIs can award. Some offer a wide range of programmes and can award qualifications in several fields, for instance Chalmers University of Technology, the Stockholm School of Economics and Jönköping University, while others can only award qualifications in a specific field, like Beckmans College of Design or Örebro Theological Seminary.
There are also independent higher education providers that are not entitled to award qualifications according to the Act Concerning Authority to Award Certain Qualifications such as the Scandinavian College of Naprapathic Medicine and Skandinaviska Kiropraktorskolan (Scandinavian School of Chiropractic). Independent higher education providers of this kind often offer programmes that lead to the award of a qualification that is not listed in the Qualifications Ordinance or programmes that do not lead to the award of any formal qualification.
No, major sections of the Higher Education Act (1992:1434) and the Higher Education Ordinance do not apply to independent higher education providers. The activities of the independent higher education providers that have been granted the right to award specific qualifications are subject to the Act Concerning Authority to Award Certain Qualifications (1993:792). This act stipulates that programmes are to be based on scholarship or artistic practice and on proven experience and that they are to be provided so that in other respects they fulfil the requirements laid down for courses and programmes in Chapter 1 of the Higher Education Act. Otherwise the Higher Education Act does not apply to these higher education providers. Nor are they subject to the Higher Education Ordinance, apart from the requirement that the qualification they are entitled to award must fulfil the specific requirements laid down for it in the Qualifications Ordinance.
In addition to these regulations, the Discrimination Act (2008:567) applies to the activities of an independent higher education provider. The Discrimination Ombudsman supervises compliance with the Discrimination Act.
The scope open to UKÄ (Swedish Higher Education Authority) to exercise supervision of independent higher education providers entitled to award qualifications as laid down in the Higher Education Ordinance is restricted. This is because many of the statutes that apply to the HEIs and other government agencies do not apply to independent higher education providers. We are able, however, to monitor whether these independent higher education providers comply with their own regulations. We supervision of independent higher education providers that have not been granted entitlement to award qualifications is even more restricted.
Initially you should turn to your own HEI. Each independent higher education provider has its own appeal board and student representatives or their counterparts to safeguard the legal rights of their students. For this reason it is often possible to have a decision by the institution reviewed. If this does not solve the problem, there may in some cases be grounds for making a complaint to us.
If you would like to read more about how to submit a complaint and how it is dealt with when received by us you can do it under the complaints about higher education institutions page.
Qualifications and degree certificates
Swedish Higher Education Authority considers that the time it takes to deal with questions relating to qualifications should not exceed two months.
The qualifications that Swedish HEIs may award are listed in the Qualifications Ordinance, annex 2 to the Higher Education Ordinance. You can apply for a degree certificate from a HEI to show that you have completed studies in higher education and fulfil the requirements for the award of a qualification as laid down in the Qualifications Ordinance.
A degree certificate provides information about the extent and content of your studies. It also states the title of the qualification and which HEI has awarded it. With the degree certificate you should also be given an supplement that describes your programme and how it fits into the higher education system (in English this is called a Diploma Supplement).
A course certificate is proof that you have completed a course successfully. If you have completed a course successfully, the HEI must provide a course certificate if you ask for one.
If during one and the same programme you have studied at several HEIs, your degree certificate should be issued by the HEI at which you completed the programme. This applies provided that the HEIs involved have not made any other agreement or are going to award a joint degree.
Grades are given by an examiner, in other words a teacher at a HEI who has been nominated for the examination. Students should be given grades for the courses they have completed, unless a HEI has decided otherwise.
You cannot appeal against a grade but you can ask for it to be reviewed. The examiner decides if a review is to be made.
There are no national regulations about how long marking can take. One starting point is the provision in the Administrative Procedure Act (1986:223) that issues are to be dealt with as rapidly as possible without jeopardising reliability. The Parliamentary Ombudsman has stated that an appropriate norm for marking examinations would be three weeks. This opinion related to a 5-credit course (7.5 higher education credits today). HEIs should issue guidelines about how long marking may take using the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s opinion as their starting point.
In principle there is no limit to the number of times a student may resit an examination or complete a placement period, if a HEI has not decided to restrict the number. A restriction of this kind has to be clearly stated in the course syllabus or some other official record of the HEI’s decision. The number of resits permitted in this case must be at least five, and the number of placement periods at least two.
The date of a resit should normally be announced by the date of the regular examination at the latest.
UKÄ considers that the period between notification of the results of an examination and the resit should be ten working days or at least two weeks.
The examiner is the one who sets the grade for a course. It should, however, be unusual for an examiner to demand very extensive changes in a dissertation or paper for it to be given a pass grade once a supervisor has said it may be presented. There are no rules about this, but explicit marking criteria and a sound dialogue between the supervisor and the examiner are measures that could enable avoidance of situations of this kind. The HEIs usually try to prevent this problem from arising.
Students have not been given any right to take examinations outside their HEIs but on the basis of the services that public authorities are required to provide according to Section 4 of the Administrative Procedure Act, there could be grounds for HEIs to offer this possibility. If a HEI does offer the possibility, it is not allowed to charge a fee for students to be able to take examinations at some other place.
Course and programme syllabuses
Course syllabuses and programme syllabuses contain directives that lay down the conditions for admission to and completion of a course of study. The Higher Education Ordinance stipulates what a course syllabus and programme syllabus has to include.
The Higher Education Ordinance lays down that there has to be programme syllabus for a degree programme and a course syllabus for a course. The courses that form part of a degree programme have to have course syllabuses. A programme syllabus should include the courses the programme comprises, any prior knowledge and other conditions in addition to the general entry requirements that apply for admission to the degree programme – in other words any specific entry requirements that may apply, and any other regulations that may be necessary.
A course syllabus should include the following:
- the level of the course,
- the number of he credits it comprises,
- the intended course learning outcomes,
- any prior knowledge and other conditions in addition to the general entry requirements that apply for admission to the course (specific entry requirements),
- the forms of examination to be used to evaluate student performance, and
any other regulations that may be necessary.
There are no national regulations about this but course syllabuses should be available in good time before the start of the course.
As a student you can influence your studies through representation in your HEI’s decision-making and planning bodies. Student are entitled to representation in the HEI’s board as well as the bodies that plan or decide on issues that are significant for the situation of students and their studies. If a decision is made by one single individual, she or he has to inform and consult a student representative in good time before the decision is made or the planning completed.
Students who are taking part in or who have finished a course must be given an opportunity to describe their experience and express their opinions in a course evaluation. The HEIs are required to arrange course evaluations and summarise their results and they also have to inform students about these results and any measures that may be adopted because of them. The results must be made available for the students.
UKÄ usually recommends students to turn first to the HEI to resolve problems that may arise. The individuals who it may be a good idea to contact are the course coordinator, head of department, director of studies or a student counsellor. Sometimes the students’ union can help in establishing contacts with the HEI.
Contract education is an educational programme that has been commissioned from a HEI and is based on an agreement drawn up between the commissioner and the HEI. A company, for instance, may commission a tailor-made course for its employees’ continual professional development. Contract education is a form of education that does not form part of normal higher education and is subject to the regulations in a special ordinance, the Ordinance on Contract Education at Higher Education Institutions (2002:760).
Neither the Higher Education Act nor the Higher Education Ordinance apply to contract education, which means that a student in a programme of this kind does not have the same rights as a students in normal higher education at a HEI.
If the same standards applied to the contract education as to corresponding higher education courses or programmes, grades and degree or course certificates may be issued to people who participate in contract education pursuant to the regulations on first and second-cycle higher education.
Appealing against decisions
Appeals may be made about certain decisions about appointment to posts, admission to courses or programmes and certain educational decisions to the Higher Education Appeals Board as laid down in Section 2 of Chapter 12 of the Higher Education Ordinance. There are also other decisions about which it is possible to appeal to the Higher Education Appeals Board. You will find more information about what kind of decisions they are on the Higher Education Appeals Board’s website.
No, as part of our supervision we can express criticism of a HEI and ask it to report remedial measures but we cannot alter the decision of a HEI.
No, it is not possible to appeal against a grade but you can request the examiner to review the decision.
This page was last updated 20 January 2023