Adopted by the Vice-Chancellor on 29 September 2011. Reg. no. SU 209-1772-10.

Aim and starting points

The aim of Stockholm University’s language policy is to increase our staff and students’ awareness of the importance of language and language use. The policy specifies the principles by which language is promoted and contains guidelines for language use at the University. The appendix to the policy gives an account of current regulations and provides support for complying with the Language Act (2009:600).
Stockholm University’s vision serves as a common starting point and level of ambition for the University’s activities:

“By the year 2015, education and research at most of the University’s departments and units should be nationally leading and internationally prominent.”

High linguistic quality is a prerequisite for nationally and internationally competitive operations. English is often the international language in research contexts, and the use of English is a prerequisite for Swedish researchers to be able to participate in international academic work. The internationalisation of higher education is vital to increasing the quality of education and research, and the University is working actively with internationalisation in order to reach a more prominent international position. The University should be attractive to Swedish and foreign researchers and students. Graduates from Stockholm University should be well prepared for both national and international study and labour markets. Researchers at the University should participate in international academic contexts, for example, by presenting the results of their research at international conferences and publishing in internationally leading journals (1). All of this requires high linguistic quality in other languages than Swedish, primarily in English. In relation to this, there is a need to discuss and reflect upon the importance of language in different situations. In order for the operations to be successful, Swedish and English should be used in parallel at the University.

Parallel language use

The University should aim to use parallel languages as much as possible, which means that Swedish and English function as parallel academic languages. Parallel language use means that teachers and students are able to speak adequate Swedish in parallel with English of high quality. The use and development of one language should not take place at the expense of proficiency in the other language. The goal of parallel language use means that a conscious effort to increase the international elements of education is combined with an effort to develop Swedish terminology and Swedish text patterns in each field of study (2).

Conscious language use

The use of a complete language in education and research is of great importance to the quality of these activities. A conscious use of language will benefit both quality and efficiency. It is important to consider how learning ability, creativity and the understanding of concepts are affected by the use of one’s mother tongue versus other languages (3). One effect of decreased use of one’s mother tongue is so-called “domain loss”, i.e. when one language replaces another in a particular domain of society, which can happen when skilled labour is done in a language that is not the employee’s mother tongue. If words and expressions cannot be translated properly, the conditions for communication between different groups, for example, experts and laypersons, worsen. Another effect of work being done in a language other than the mother tongue is so-called “capacity loss”, which involves the inability to express oneself with nuance and precision.

To the University, it is thus important to have a conscious discussion about language use in research and education and the possible effects of language choice on the quality of education, for example, when a teacher does not teach in his or her mother tongue. In some cases, the quality benefits associated with teaching in English may outweigh the capacity loss caused by this language use. For example, it enables students to benefit from prominent research in various fields and may make them more employable internationally. In addition, there are greater opportunities to recruit students, teachers and researchers internationally. At the same time, it is important that English is used consciously upon considering the possible consequences for the quality of the University’s operations.

A large proportion of students at Stockholm University have neither Swedish nor English as their mother tongue, but are multilingual with Swedish as their second language. The proportion of multilingual students and teachers varies between different training programmes and research areas. It is thus important for the University to provide support to staff and students with a mother tongue other than Swedish, for example, in the form of language tuition, courses in academic Swedish within different programmes, and proofreading based on student needs (see the Support services section below for more information).

Guidelines for language use at Stockholm University

Swedish is the University’s administrative language. Individuals should be able to use Swedish when retrieving information from and communicating with the University. Texts should be written in a cultivated and comprehensible language, avoiding unnecessarily complicated sentences. The meaning of cultivated language is that it adheres to common language standards.

Strategic documents, regulations and guidelines should be written in Swedish and translated into English wherever possible. The Swedish original is the legally binding text. Information about the University should also be available in other languages than Swedish, primarily in English.

Knowledge pertaining to all disciplines should be possible to be conveyed in clear, comprehensible Swedish and English. Therefore, the University should seek to develop adequate Swedish terminology with Swedish text patterns in all disciplines. In this context, researchers have a special responsibility to contribute to the development of relevant Swedish terminology in their field.

The possibility to use other languages than Swedish and English varies between disciplines, and in some subjects, languages such as French, Spanish and German are the dominant languages. The University wishes to emphasise the value of publishing and disseminating research results in other languages than Swedish and English when the other languages are immediately relevant to the research content.

At Stockholm University,

• departments, centres, institutes and other units within the organisation should have names in Swedish and English,

• programmes and degrees should have names in Swedish and English,

• decisions and other important documents, such as syllabi, minutes, provisions, operational plans and similar, should be in Swedish, but may well be translated into other languages.

Apart from this, the choice of language should be based on an assessment of quality and appropriateness. This assessment should be made in each individual case, and the relevant body (disciplinary domain board/faculty board/department) is responsible for carrying out the measures required to achieve the goals of the language policy.

The University should promote linguistic diversity within the organisation in order to be attractive to foreign students, teachers and researchers. Documents used to recruit personnel or provide information about working conditions, etc., to potential applicants should preferably also be available in English. Language skills may be an advantage in the recruitment of teachers, researchers or administrative staff. For administrative staff, knowledge of Finnish, Meänkieli, Sami or sign language may be a particular advantage. In the appointment of teachers, the University cannot require applications to be in English. In cases where applications are reviewed by external experts who do not speak Swedish, the University may specify that applications should preferably be in English. If an application is still written in Swedish, the University should provide a translation. However, this does not prevent English from being the working language in the academic review in these cases.


• First-cycle programmes are given primarily in Swedish (not including programmes specifically aimed at foreign students). However, it is desirable that parts/elements of the programme/course are in English or, where appropriate, in the language that is the object of study.

• In second- and third-cycle programmes, English should be used more extensively than in the first cycle. Instruction may be given in English, in Swedish, in English and Swedish in parallel, or, where appropriate, in the language that is the object of study.

• Doctoral and licentiate theses in Swedish should have a summary in English, and vice versa. Theses written in the language that is the object of study should have a summary in both English and Swedish.

Some instruction in first-, second- and third-cycle programmes is also given in sign language, with or without an interpreter.

The language of instruction is specified in the course catalogue and the online course database SISU, but should also be specified in the course or programme syllabus. If a course is examined in a language other than Swedish (in full or in part), this should be specified in the syllabus. Students should also be informed of this in good time before the start of the course. Grades should be written in Swedish.

Teachers should have good knowledge of the language of instruction. Decisions regarding the language of instruction should be informed by an assessment of the quality and aims described in the syllabus.

The University should seek to promote the development of students’ language skills in order for the students to master academic Swedish and English, develop their knowledge of and ability to use terminology in Swedish, and be able to transfer their knowledge to other languages.

Support services

Study and language workshop

Studie- och språkverkstaden (the study and language workshop) at Stockholm University provides free services to students at the University in the form of academic writing tutorials, help with written assignments, and seminars and courses in study techniques and public speaking. The workshop currently only provides support in Swedish.

Language Learning Resource Centre

The Language Learning Resource Centre at Stockholm University provides a wide range of digital language resources that all language students have free access to. Since many students at the University have a mother tongue other than Swedish (including the University’s foreign exchange students), the resources include special support in Swedish as a Second Language.

Centre for Academic English

The Centre for Academic English (CAE) at Stockholm University provides students and staff with support and guidance in the oral and written use of English in academic contexts. The CAE provides specially designed courses in English for academic and professional purposes.


Rules & Regulations, Book 1 – Organisation & Administration contains the communications policy and procedure for communications at Stockholm University. The policy establishes Stockholm University’s views on the purpose and importance of communication, responsibilities and roles in the communication process, target groups and channels. In addition, the communications policy is complemented by guidelines for visual identity.


The University has procured translation services to and from English. The provider is listed under procured communication services on the University website.


Current regulations

The Language Act, which entered into force on 1 July 2009, establishes everyone’s right to the Swedish language, a right that includes Swedish as a mother tongue and Swedish as a second language. There is also prior legislation related to language use, including provisions concerning interpretation and translation of documents, and concerning the wording of official documents and decisions. For example, the Administrative Procedure Act states that public institutions should aim to express themselves in an easily understandable manner. Chapter 1, Section 2 of the Instrument of Government contains provisions that the public sector should discourage discrimination based on language and other factors. The European Convention (Article 14) states that the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms specified in the Convention should be guaranteed regardless of a person’s language or other status.

There are no regulations in the Higher Education Act or Higher Education Ordinance regarding what language a training programme should be given in. Chapter 7, Section 6 of the Higher Education Ordinance states that the requisite knowledge of Swedish is a requirement for admission to first-cycle programmes (4). Second- and third-cycle programmes do not have any such requirements for knowledge of Swedish. However, the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education argues that it may be taken for granted that a person applying for a course or programme given in Swedish also has the requisite knowledge of Swedish (5).

The Language Act

The Language Act (2009:600) includes the following statements:

Section 5: As principal language, Swedish is the common language in society that everyone resident in Sweden is to have access to and that is to be usable in all areas of society.

Section 6: The public sector has a particular responsibility for the use and development of Swedish.

Section 9: The public sector has a particular responsibility to protect and promote Swedish sign language.

Section 10: The language of the courts, administrative authorities and other bodies that perform tasks in the public sector is Swedish.

Section 11: The language of the public sector is to be cultivated, simple and comprehensible.

Section 12: Government agencies have a special responsibility for ensuring that Swedish terminology in their various areas of expertise is accessible, and that it is used and developed.

The main purpose of the Act is to send a clear signal regarding the importance of the Swedish language in society, to ensure that Swedish will continue to be the main language in Sweden in the future, and to facilitate participation in public discussion. The language policy objectives that the Language Act is based on emphasise that Swedish should be a complete language, serving and uniting society, which means that it can be used in all domains of society. To facilitate this, the development of language needs to follow the development of society as a whole, for example in terms of vocabulary, terminology and concepts in different areas. The Act is aimed particularly at representatives of the public sector.

The Language Act mainly contains basic provisions of a general nature concerning the status and use of language, and is thus a “law of obligations” (6). The provisions are not accompanied by direct sanctions, but apply to, for example, the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s areas of responsibility. The Language Act states that if another act or ordinance contains a provision that diverges from the Language Act, that provision applies.

Within the core area – administration

According to the preparatory work for the Language Act, the principal rule is that Swedish should be used in the public institution’s core area, which means such proceedings and public documents that are of particular importance to the institution’s operations. The term “core area” used here is not synonymous with the University’s core activities, which are research and education. The implication of this rule is that the administrative language of administrative authorities is Swedish, and that decisions and other important documents should be prepared in Swedish. What this means for the University is that provisions, decisions, minutes, syllabi and other documentation that the University is required to prepare should be written in Swedish. Furthermore, individuals should always be able to communicate in Swedish in their dealings with the University.

Outside the core area – education and research

It is clear from the preparatory work relating to the Language Act that it is possible to disregard the principal rule outside the core area. In such cases, the importance of using other languages should be weighed against the public sector’s responsibility for the use and development of the Swedish language (7). The assessment should be made by the institution in question and be objectively motivated on the basis of the specific conditions of the institution’s field of operations. With regards to such assessments, the government bill proposing the Language Act states the following:

“When it comes to education and research, the internationalisation efforts described in the bill ‘Ett lyft för forskning och innovation’ (A boost for research and innovation) are a key factor that needs to be taken into account when institutions are to apply the provisions of the Language Act outside the core area.” (8)

The conduct of education and research lies outside the core area. Thus, the Language Act does not require the language of research and instruction to be Swedish. The individual researcher’s independent position means that he or she is best suited to determine which language should be used in different research contexts.

National minority languages

The Language Act also states that Finnish, Yiddish, Meänkieli, Romani Chib and Sami have the status of national minority languages and that the public sector has a special responsibility to protect and promote these languages. The Act on National Minorities and Minority Languages (2009:724), which entered into force on 1 January 2010, states that administrative authorities should seek to ensure that personnel proficient in Finnish, Meänkieli and Sami is available where such skills are needed in contacts between individuals and authorities. Furthermore, individuals have the right to use Finnish, Meänkieli or Sami in their dealings with administrative authorities if the case can be processed by personnel proficient in the minority language. This refers to case processing, which may include cases relating to individual students, such as grading, disciplinary action, credit transfer, discrimination cases, etc. Measures that do not constitute legal proceedings and do not have legal consequences are not covered. Education and research are thus not covered by the minority language act.

1) See also “Övergripande strategi samt riktlinjer för internationellt samarbete vid Stockholms universitet”, reg. no. SU 301-3014-08.

2) “Text patterns” refers to sentence structure, style, general academic vocabulary, etc.

3) See, for example, the discussion in “Vetenskapsengelska – med svensk kvalitet”, Franke S. ed. Jansson E. Språkrådet, Högskoleverket, Södertörns högskola, 2008, and HSV’s publication “Om undervisning på engelska”

4) Chapter 7, Section 6 of the HEO states: ”A person who has a mother tongue other than Swedish, Danish, Faroese, Icelandic or Norwegian must have the requisite knowledge of Swedish. The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education may issue more detailed regulations concerning the requirement laid down in the first paragraph. However, a person whose mother tongue is Finnish and who has studied Swedish at an upper-secondary school or corresponding type of school in Finland for three or more years shall be considered to have the requisite knowledge of Swedish. Ordinance (2006:1053).”

5) Högskoleverket, “Rättssäker examination - andra omarbetade upplagan”, Report 2008:36 R, p. 38 f.

6) This means that it is not possible for individuals to assert a right, i.e. there is no appeal.

7) Justitieombudsmannen, “Tillämpning av språklagen; fråga om krav på att ansökningar om forskningsanslag ska vara skrivna på engelska”, reg. no. 1811-2008.

8) Prop. 2008/09:153, p. 30.