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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.5 Cross-border learning mobility

Last update: 10 March 2023
On this page
  1. Policy framework
  2. Main cross-border mobility programmes for students in formal education
  3. Promoting mobility in the context of non-formal learning, and of youth work
  4. Quality assurance

Policy framework

In November 2011, Member States agreed on a benchmark of at least 20% of higher education graduates having had a period of study or training abroad, and 6% for vocational education and training students, both to be reached by 2020 (the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training).

There are no overall targets for the IVET mobility policy in Sweden in general (IVET, Initial Vocational Education and Training). The curriculum for upper secondary education states that the responsibility of the head teacher includes encouragement of international contacts, co-operation and exchange in education. It is applicable to all learners, but no targets are set.

According to legislation, career guidance for international learning should be available for all students nationwide. It is up to each school organiser to meet the goals. To ensure that school organisers meet the goals, and that students have access to adequate guidance in a decentralized educational system, the Swedish School Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) has a controlling function to ensure convergence.

The Swedish Council for Higher Education (Universitets- och högskolerådet) is assigned to coordinate and make information and guidance available about all mobility programmes, including those available for IVET-learners, funded by the EU, the Nordic Council of Ministers or the Swedish State.



Main cross-border mobility programmes for students in formal education

The Swedish Council for Higher Education (Universitet- och högskolerådet) is a government agency with different tasks in the education sector. One of them is to provide organisations and individuals in Sweden with the opportunity to participate in international exchanges and partnerships.

The agency is responsible for a number of different programmes that give stakeholders in the entire Swedish education sector – from pre-school and school, to higher education, vocational education and training and adult education – the opportunity to apply for project funding for international partnership and exchange projects.

In general, it is organisations – for example, a school, a higher education institution or vocational training centre – that may apply for funds from the Swedish Council for Higher Education. It is then the organisation that sends staff, students and pupils on exchanges to other countries.

The Agency provides a web portal,, that gives information to both students and organisations.


Upper secondary education, general and VET

Athena is an exchange programme for teachers and pupils in vocational upper secondary education, upper secondary education for pupils with learning disabilities and vocational adult education. The programme is managed by the Swedish Council for Higher Education (Universitets- och högskolerådet) and gives pupils, teachers, school management and other teaching staff the opportunity to participate in exchanges with developing countries.


Nordic Agreement on Co-operation on Upper Secondary School Education gives all young Nordic citizens the right to take part in upper secondary education in another Nordic country. The agreement commits the countries to give learners from other Nordic countries access to secondary education under the same conditions as nationals. The Agreement also guarantees that the countries will not seek compensation for educating each other’s students, as this could constitute a direct obstacle to freedom of movement for students in upper-secondary education in the Nordic Region.

The Nordic countries also undertake to work to recognise the education obtained through studies in another Nordic country. The countries have even agreed to conduct information campaigns aimed at making students aware of the opportunities to study in other Nordic countries and to take up those opportunities.


Nordplus Junior programme makes it possible to apply for grants for cooperation with schools in the Nordic and Baltic countries, such as for project partnerships, pupil and teacher exchanges and work experience for pupils. Nordplus Junior is aimed at preschools, primary and secondary schools, both theoretical and vocational programmes, as well as vocational schools/apprenticeships.

Extended schools in arts and culture, that are part of a national or regional school syllabus, may apply as coordinators. Pupils, teachers and other educational staff may participate. Funding is available for various activities, including mobility activities: preparatory visits, class exchanges, pupil exchanges and work experience.


Erasmus+ Mobility Project for VET learners offers a VET traineeship abroad for up to 12 months. This activity is open to both apprentices and students in vocational training schools. These learners undertake a vocational training placement in an another country. Learners are hosted either at a workplace (in an enterprise or other relevant organisation) or at a VET school.

The learning outcomes are formally recognised and validated at an institutional level, course contents are adapted as necessary to ensure that the mobility period abroad fits well with the course in which the apprentice/VET student is enrolled. In order to strengthen the employability of young people and to facilitate their transition to the labour market, recent graduates from VET schools or companies providing VET to apprentices can participate in this activity as well. 


One-year Programmes give upper-secondary school students in Sweden the opportunity to study in France, Spain, Germany or Austria for one academic year. Students who have been accepted on one of the programmes are placed in the programme that best matches the upper-secondary school programme they are studying in Sweden.

Swedish students participate in classes on the same terms as the host country's, and may choose to sit exams and receive grades or assessments. They receive a monthly study grant and boarding supplement. This is paid by CSN (Centrala studiestödsnämnden) in Sweden and contributes to covering the costs for boarding at the school or the host family. 


Atlas Practical Training enables students of occupational preparatory programmes at secondary schools (VET) and adult students of further education institutions to conduct their practical training in a foreign country. Practical trainings abroad aim to give students the chance for professional development, cultural exchange and improvement of language skills. The practical training has to be carried out at a work place within the field of the student’s education programme. It is not possible for individual students without the support of a school or organisation to apply for this programme.

The majority of schools and other organisers of education have their own bilateral co-operation agreements with institutions in other countries, those are described in more detail in Eurydice.


Higher education

The Swedish Council for Higher Education (Universitet- och högskolerådet) has the overall responsibility for exchange programmes for students in higher education in Sweden. Students are to apply via their universities. Several international student exchange programmes are available.

Erasmus and Nordplus are examples of programmes in which the majority of Swedish universities participate. Erasmus, which is the biggest programme, offers studies in Europe, while Nordplus has opportunities for studying in the Nordic and Baltic regions. There are also programmes for exchanges with countries in other parts of the world, such as Linnaeus-Palme, which offers grants for studies in low and middle-income countries.

The majority of universities and university colleges have their own bilateral co-operation agreements with institutions in other countries, those are described in Eurydice.


Erasmus+ is an exchange programme that provides the opportunity to study abroad for 3–12 months. It is financed by the European Commission. In Sweden, Erasmus+ is administered by the Swedish Council for Higher Education and the higher education institutions that participate in the programme.

Erasmus students study at a higher education institution (university) in another European country for 3-12 months, on the same terms as students of the host country. Erasmus students receive a grant from their university. The grant covers the extra costs associated with the overseas stay, but it is not fully comprehensive. The size of the grant varies from 315 to 375 euros per month.


Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees are high quality, specialised degrees where different parts of the programme are placed at the various participating universities. Students in Sweden can apply to all the joint Master’s programmes within Erasmus+, provided they have the necessary eligibility; there is no need for a Swedish university to be part of the partnership.

Unlike other exchange programmes, most Erasmus+ joint Master’s programmes charge tuition fees. However, it is possible to apply for grants that cover travel and living costs, as well as any tuition fees.


Nordplus Higher Education Programme is a mobility and network programme in the higher education sector, on bachelor and master levels, for the Nordic and Baltic countries. The aim of the programme is to create a collaboration between the institutions that participate in the programme through exchanges.

The Nordplus Higher Education Programme supports cooperation between networks, intensive courses, development projects, joint study programmes and student and teacher mobility in universities and university colleges. Grants are awarded e.g. for innovative development projects, dissemination and use of results achieved by networks and projects, language training and establishment of new networks.

Linnaeus-Palme supports long-term, bilateral collaboration at the department level between higher education institutions in low- and middle-income countries and Sweden. The collaboration takes place in the form of projects based on teacher and student exchanges, each of which must have a concrete academic purpose.

Some of the objectives are to develop professional skills of the participating student and teachers, to broaden the recruitment base of young people who can work with development issues at home as well as abroad and to increase understanding of other cultures.


Promoting mobility in the context of non-formal learning, and of youth work

Sweden takes part in the Erasmus+ Youth, the programme the European Union has set up for young people. Erasmus+ Youth is a key instrument for non-formal and informal learning in an European dimension. 

Based on government priorities, Sweden has chosen to focus specifically on young people who do not study or work. In 2016, Sweden has also focused on integration of newly arrived young migrants.

The number of applications within Youth t fell sharply during the pandemic. In 2020, 276 applications were received, compared to 160 applications in 2021 and 199 applications in 2022. The total size of Erasmus+ Youth grant in 2022 was 5.4 million euros, all according to the annual report 2022 of MUCF.

Besides Erasmus+ Youth, there are no other programmes that promote cross-border mobility in the context of non-formal learning in Sweden.


Quality assurance


Statistics Sweden (Statistiska centralbyrån) has studied young Swede’s mobility for learning purposes in Europe. The report presents statistics available on international mobility for learning purposes and the scope of mobility in Sweden. The report builds on a pilot survey initiated by the European statistical authority, Eurostat.

Two European benchmarks (mobility among those who have completed post-secondary education and mobility among those who have completed initial vocational education training), and an indicator for the area (general mobility for learning purposes among young people) are measured for the first time.

Among those between 18 and 34 years of age in 2014, who were studying or had studied in a post-secondary education for at least two years, about 17%  had been abroad for at least three months within the framework of their post-secondary studies. The share having been abroad within the framework of their post-secondary education is close to the European benchmark of 20%.

About 11%  had attended some courses abroad that can be credited to the Swedish education. About 6% had attended a complete education programme abroad.

About 10% among people between 18 and 34 years of age, with completed initial vocational education and training, had been abroad for at least two weeks within the framework of their upper secondary education. The share in Sweden is higher than the benchmark of 6% set up by the European Union. The majority visited a workplace during their time abroad. Barely three out of ten visited a school.

Among all 2,2 million people between 18 and 34 years of age in Sweden 2014, about 700 000 had taken part in international mobility for learning purposes. This corresponds to a third of the surveyed age group. Among those who had been abroad for learning purposes, the share of women was slightly higher than that of men. Activities included taking part in a pupil exchange, or some other participation in formal education, for instance in the framework of compulsory school, upper secondary education or higher education.

Non-formal education activities were also included. About 25% of all those between 18 and 34 years of age had been abroad for learning purposes outside their formal education. The share was slightly higher among women than men. The most common activities were language courses, study-, sports- and class trips, work-related courses, conferences or study visits.  


Mobility programmes for students in higher education

A timely report from the Swedish Council for Higher Education (Universitets- och högskolerådet) deals with how higher education institutions work on broadening recruitment for international student mobility. It also surveys how the higher education institutions interpret the central concepts; participants with fewer opportunities, broader recruitment and widening participation, under-represented groups and inclusion. The results show that most higher education institutions in Sweden welcome the new opportunities for blended mobility within Erasmus+. Blended mobility is a combination of physical mobility and virtual mobility. It is expected to increase and broaden recruitment to the programme. Explicit or generalising definitions are rare in the interpretation and use of the concepts that relate to broadened recruitment, in both governing documents and in everyday activities. These concepts take on different meanings depending on the context of the higher education institution, with no unifying interpretation. However, perhaps a single definition is not desirable, as it would make it more difficult to focus on the aspects that are relevant to each higher education institution’s student population and challenges. At the same time, this lack of precision in the use of concepts hinders the exchange of experience and learning (Breddad rekrytering till internationell mobilitet, 2021:8).

The main instrument to monitor student’s views on Erasmus+ is the Eurostudent project that collects comparable data on the social dimension of European higher education, including mobility. According to the latest data from Eurostudent V, about 14%  of Swedish higher education graduates have had a period of study or training abroad.

The average age of Swedish students is higher than in the rest of Europe and many have both settled down and have children. These students find it generally more difficult to break to study abroad, compared with younger students. Swedish students indicate above all that separation from relatives and financing barriers hinders them from study or training abroad. Study financing is the second biggest obstacle for Swedish students, even though they have better economic conditions compared to other students in Europe.


Table 6.1 Student mobility in Sweden, 2011/2012-2015/2016 (total number). 

Exchange programme


Total, exchange students6 6966 9486 9467 1787 255
Female3 7743 8943 9804 1084 181
Male2 9223 0542 9663 0703 074
Bilateral programmes3 3933 6873 7423 9413 898
Female1 8702 0082 0262 1522 124
Male1 5231 6791 7161 7891 774
EU-programmes3 1493 1393 0653 0843 220
Female1 8171 8071 8501 8451 970
Male1 3321 3321 2151 2391 250

Source: EUROSTUDENT V En kort inblick i studenternas mobilitet. Universitets- och högskolerådet 2015. Statistics on student mobility is provided by the Swedish Council for Higher Education and Statistics Sweden.