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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Support measures for learners in higher education


12.Educational support and guidance

12.5Support measures for learners in higher education

Last update: 27 November 2023


Definition of the target groups 

Universities and university colleges are obligated to consider the needs of students who have physical disabilities or for other reasons experience difficulties when it comes to following the education. The state higher education institutions are directly accountable to the Government and the Parliament. According to the annual governmental approval document the higher education institutions must reserve a certain part of the recieved grants for aid to disabled students. If the execution of this obligation results in higher costs, the institutions can apply for additional grants.

The different groups of students with disabilities studying at Swedish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) vary. Diskrimineringslag (2008:567) (Discrimination Act) defines disability as: permanent physical, mental or intellectual limitation of a person’s functional capacity that as a consequence of injury or illness existed at birth, has arisen since then or can be expected to arise. 

Examples of disabilities within the target group include:

  • Dyslexia/specific learning difficulties
  • Visual impairment
  • Mobility impairment
  • Deaf/sign language speaking students (with interpreting)
  • Learning difficulties/disabilities
  • Hard of hearing students

Specific support measures

At each higher education institution there is a contact person that works as a coordinator of educational support for students with disabilities. Students can discuss study plans and needs for pedagogical support or adjustments to studies with the coordinator.

The website studying with disabilities provides information about issues related studies at HEIs and disability. The website contains the coordinators contact details and links to all universities and colleges.

In order to receive special educational support the student needs a certificate or an investigation that shows that they have a disability that may affect the studies. During the first contact with the coordinator the student can present which courses will be taken and how the functional disability can create limitations in everyday life and the studies. The coordinator can then based on this information given, suggest different solutions and contact the course coordinator with proposals. However, it is the course responsible and teachers that decide which adjustments they can accept. It is common that the proposals are implemented if it is physically possible. With the help of the coordinator, the HEI can adapt better to students support needs.

Almost all of Sweden's HEIs are connected to a web service called NAIS. In this web service students can write an application for special support. The students writes what they will study and uploads their certificates from for example a doctor or psychologist.

The grants that HEIs recieve which are reserved for disabled students should be used for special pedagogical support to individual students. This support should compensate for the functional limitations arising from permanent functional disabilities. The grants are also used to cover additional costs for services intended to help disabled students. Depending on the functional impairment that the student has, different types of support measures and aids may be needed. These aids are often divided into personal aids, teaching aids and basic equipment.

Personal aids are aids that are adapted to the student's needs and are only used by the student. It can for example be a wheelchair, hearing aid or a computer which is adapted for people with visual impairment. The students try out their personal aids together with the health care services from their county councils (landsting) and the municipalities (kommuner).

It is the HEIs responsibility to supply teaching aids and suitable teaching materials. For example, the student may listen to a book instead of reading it. A personal aid can be a computer that reads text while a custom teaching material can give the student the opportunity to absorb the text at his or her level. 

Basic equipment are aids that belong to the school and is partly classified as interior design. These are things that are fundamental for the operations to be conducted and for students to be able to absorb the education. For example, chairs and tables can be mentioned. A person with disabilities may, for example, need a height-adjustable desk, which is thus classified as basic equipment and something that the school should stand for.

The difference between personal aids and basic equipment is who is responsible for and owns them. The student applies for personal aids and then have responsibility for it while basic equipment is bought and managed by the school.

Examples of often available services:

  • Literature
  • Lecturers
  • Additional assistance
  • Sign language interpretation
  • Interpretation of written text
  • Note-taking help
  • IT-support
  • Extra teaching and tuition
  • Alternative examination forms, such as: oral rather than written exams (or vice versa) and extended time for exams
  • Mentors

The national university aptitude test (a national test used for admissions to bachelor programmes in higher education) is provided in two special versions for those with serious visual impairments, in Braille and on electronics. People with mild visual impairments or with dyslexia are allowed extra time to complete the test.

Examples of services that are not within the responsibility of the universities and other higher education institutions in Sweden are personal assistance, medical attendance or transports (for example between the university campus and the place of stay).

Read more on the website studying with disabilities