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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Developments and current policy priorities


8.Adult education and training

8.2Developments and current policy priorities

Last update: 27 November 2023


The current adult education system has evolved from a grassroots tradition of liberal adult study and education initiatives that date back to the early 20th century. Adult education should function as a system that enables adults to continuously develop and reorient their education on the basis of varying individual needs.  The state and municipalities have the overall responsibility for providing the infrastructure for lifelong learning, but there are many forms of adult education in Sweden, both formal and non-formal. 

Formal adult education

Brief historical account

When the system of municipal adult education (Kommunal vuxenutbildning, Komvux) was established in 1968, liberal adult education still dominated the educational opportunities for adults. Increased skills requirements in working life and formal eligibility requirements for admission to further, or higher, education became crucial in the establishment of skills-enhancing adult education and training separate from liberal adult education offerings. Three main reasons were stated in the initial government bill for the establishment of municipal adult education and training: reducing the growing educational inequality in society, creating opportunities for individuals to supplement their schooling and providing the labour market with a well-educated workforce. 
Municipal adult education was set up to provide adults aged 20 and above with skills at levels corresponding to compulsory school. Sweden has established a legal entitlement to basic adult education for all Swedish residents who are at least 20 years old and have not completed secondary education. Consequently, the legal framework obliges municipalities to ensure sufficient provision of adult education to meet learners' demands and needs. Municipal adult education is regulated by the Education Act and the Ordinance on Municipal Adult Education. A new curriculum for adult education was adopted in 2012.
The Education Act (Skollagen 2010
The Ordinance on Municipal Adult Education (Förordning om vuxenutbildning 2011
The curriculum for adult education (Läroplan för vuxenutbildningen 2012

Current policy priorities

Change of priority in adult education

The Education Act was amended in June 2020 regarding municipal adult education so that it must also be a basis for the national and regional supply of skills to working life and provide a good basis for the students' further education. The rule for priorities within municipal adult education at upper secondary level and municipal adult education as special education at upper secondary level was changed so that the persons who have the greatest need for education are given priority. This means that not only those who have the least education must be given priority in selection for the education, but also, for example, the unemployed and adults who need to change professions.

Education for newly arrived migrants with a short educational background

The government ha assigned mandate to the The National Agency for Education(Skolverket) to develop a supporting material (Uppdrag om utbildning för nyanlända med kort utbildning – utveckling av kommunal vuxenutbildning) which is supposed to make it easier for municipalities to combine municipal adult education (kommunal vuxenutbildning) in Swedish tuition for immigrants(SFI) with other parts of municipal adult education to develop an education suited mainly for newly arrived migrants who are active within The Swedish Public Employment Services (Arbetsförmedlingen) introduction assignment (etableringsuppdraget) with a short educational background.

The education should also consist of a basic education in mathematics and other courses or parts of courses which The National Agency for Education value as relevant for the target group. The education is to be run full days with consideration to the newly arrived migrants introduction to society (samhällsorientering).


Non-formal adult education

Brief historical account

The word ’folkbildning’ is often translated as liberal or popular adult education, and the term, liberal adult education, will be used in this text. However, the specific conceptual foundations of ´folkbildning´ extend beyond what is suggested by the term adult education. ’Folk’ means ’people’ and ’bildning’ means ’enlightenment’. Swedish liberal adult education developed at the beginning of the last century when the level of education was low, and large groups of the population were excluded from higher education. There are always people who, for various reasons, need alternatives to the formal educational system. Here, folk high schools and study associations have their most important role, based on the fundamental right of all citizens to knowledge and development. Liberal adult education is a part of the non-formal education sector and is free from detailed national control. This freedom, like the strong ties to the non-profit sector, makes liberal adult education a force of societal change. Every year, several million Swedes participate in liberal adult education activities. In study associations and folk high schools, opportunities for lifelong learning are provided through a rich offering of courses and educational programmes – everything from study circles where a small group meets a few times in their leisure time up to multi-year, full-time courses of study at folk high schools.
Swedish liberal adult education is largely financed through funding grants from the state, county councils and municipalities. There is a broad political consensus that the state should provide economic support to liberal adult education. The state grant system for folk high schools was established as early as 1872. State grants for study associations date back to the library reforms of 1912. The parliament has established objectives for the activities. They can be summarised such that the activities of liberal adult education shall:
• support activities that contribute to strengthening and developing the democracy,
• contribute to making it possible for a greater diversity of people to influence their life situation and create participative involvement in societal development,
• contribute to bridging educational gaps and raise the level of education and cultural awareness in society,
• contribute to broadening the interest for and increase participation in cultural life.

Within these overarching objectives, the study associations and folk high schools are free to shape their own immediate aims and activities. The conditions for government funding for liberal adult education are expressed in the Ordinance on Governmental Grants to liberal adult education (Förordning om statsbidrag till folkbildningen 2015). The Ordinance came into force 15 May 2015 and applies to grants for 2016. The 2015 Ordinance repeals the 1991 Ordinance on government grants for adult education. 


Current policy priorities

5000 new student places within folk high schools

The government has since 2015 implemented an adult education initiative for lifelong learning and increased employment. As a part of this initiative the government is proposing to add resources for 5000 new student places in general and specific courses in folk high schools at a cost of 671 million SEK yearly (5 000 nya utbildningsplatser inom folkhögskolan). This leads to increased possibilities for people who lack a seconadry and upper seconary education to complement or choose a vocational focused education. The proposition also means that 30 million SEK is added to specific educational support so that folk high schools can continue to be an important educational path for people with functional impairments.


Other Types of Publicly Subsidised Provision for Adult Learners

Education entry grants to increase recruitment to education for people with a short educational background


As a part of the adult education initiative for lifelong learning and increased employment, the government has introduced an education entry grant (Studiestartstöd- ett nytt rekryterande studiestöd). The objective of the grant is to increace recruitment into education for people with a short educational background and large education needs. The grant was taken into effect on 2 July 2017 and will work to strengthen the target groups possibilities within the labour market. The support is a grant consisting of 9200 SEK per studying month with the posibility to recieve an additonal grant for students with children. The education entry grant can be given for a maximum of 50 weeks for full-time studies, after that the student can either start working or continue their studies with the support of general student aid.  

Added funds for the initiative Swedish from day one

The government has proposed that the initiative Swedish from day one for asylum seekers and some newly arrived (Svenska från dag ett för asylsökande och vissa nyanlända) gets 20 million SEK in added funds for 2018. The initiative has been successful and involves language training and community information through study associations and folk high schools. The aim is to offer the target group meaningful employment in anticipation of asylum or municipal placement and at the same time accelerate the establishment of the individuals who have been granted residence permits. The added funds means that more asylum seekers can be reached and that the initiative can be spread to more municipalities where there is a high demand and need. The proposal was taken into effect in the beginning of January 2018.