There are some differences between studying at an upper secondary school (high school) and a university. Here are some things you should know before you begin your studies.

Freedom to plan your time

Studying at a university can be compared to having a job. Full-time studies take about 40 hours per week. All of these hours are not included in your course schedule. Much of your time will be spent reading your course literature and completing required assignments. Technical subjects often have more lecture time, seminars and other forms of scheduled teaching than other subjects. No matter what subject you choose to study, you have great freedom in planning how you will use your time.

60 credits per year

An academic year is 40 weeks long and divided into two semesters - autumn and spring. If you study at a full-time pace, you'll be taking 60 credits worth of classes per year. Most programmes start in the autumn semester, but there are some programmes that start in the spring. 

Between the spring and autumn semesters, many universities offer summer courses that are 15 credits. This is a good chance to take courses that are connected to your main subject area, or study other subjects that interest you.

The semesters start as follows:

  • autumn semester begins around the end of August
  • spring semester begins around the end of January
  • the summer session usually starts in June

Before you begin

Before the start of the semester, the university departments send out information to all accepted students. Some send their information directly after the first admission selection while others wait until after the second. In this information, you can read about when your course or courses begin, the date of roll-call and where you can register. You can also find this information on the respective university's website. 

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All programmes are made up of courses

All higher education study programmes are comprised of a number of different courses. Some courses are only a few weeks long, while others can cover an entire academic year.

Study programmes

If you study a programme that leads to a degree, the university has already decided which courses are included and in what order they should be studied. If you're in a study programme, you have a guaranteed place in all of the courses that are required. 

Combining individual courses

You can select courses yourself that, when combined, lead to a general degree. With this option, you can take the courses you want in the order that you'd like. The one drawback is that you aren't guaranteed a place in the courses that you've applied to, which you are when you're enrolled in a programme. 

Professional degrees

Some degrees can only be awarded by being accepted to and completing a programme - you can't combine courses on your own. This is the case with professional degrees, such as psychologist or social worker.

Part-time studies

You can study many courses at a part-time pace, for example half-time or quarter-time. This means you study fewer credits per week, resulting in less time devoted to studies.

Lectures and meetings for part-time courses are often held in the evenings and on weekends. This makes it easier to combine studies with your job. When you choose a course or programme, check carefully to see what the study pace is and when you need to be in class.

Different types of teaching

How a course is taught and what components are a part of the syllabus can vary. Here are some of the ways classes are taught.


In a lecture, a teacher talks about the subject in front of a group of students. The size of the group can vary. Some lectures take place in an auditorium or lecture hall with up to 200 students, while others are in a regular classroom with 20 students. You can ask questions, but the most important part of a lecture is listening and taking notes. Teachers often discuss important parts of the course that can't be found in the textbooks.


In a seminar, a teacher and a smaller group of students gather to discuss a specific subject. It's important to prepare for the seminar in advance by reading course material and studying your notes. 

Page last updated 2023-12-21