Programme, master’s level
120 credits
Malmö daytime 100%
29 August, 2022 - 2 June, 2024
Applications open 15 March

About the education

This master’s programme is geared toward students interested in better understanding the role of education in relation to the formation of individuals and society, and exploring the study of education through historical and contemporary perspectives. The programme aims to provide you with in-depth knowledge of international educational theory as well as the opportunity to pursue a research career in the field. The programme has a philosophical and historical foundation. Central concepts that will be discussed include education, upbringing, fostering, teaching, schooling and different conceptions of the role of the teacher.

As a student, you will be introduced to significant ideas and theories in the history of educational theory as well as how these ideas influence contemporary education. By working dialectically and critically, you will develop your analytical and conceptual skills through lectures, readings, seminars, and workshops. Theoretical perspectives will be discussed in relation to concrete examples chosen by both teachers and students.

During the programme, you will critically explore the history and theories of different practices of schooling and educational technologies. At the same time, you will deepen your understanding of education in terms of complex processes of personal change and interpersonal influence. You will explore the relationships between education and political action and between educational autonomy and political dependency. You will also be given the opportunity to study different research methodologies relevant for educational theory, as well as the philosophy of science underpinning these methods.

  • The first semester revolves around the question of what education is, investigating its intellectual history and different educational practices.
  • The second semester is dedicated to understanding and challenging foundational ideas about what it is to become formed through education and the boundaries between education, formation, upbringing, and fostering.
  • The focus of the third semester is on explicating and critically evaluating the contested relationship between education and politics. In addition to the above, the first three semesters will also allow you to study research methodology, including philosophy of science, research ethics and academic writing within the field of educational theory.
  • During the fourth and final semester you will write a master’s thesis as well as participate in seminars discussing texts in progress.

During the non-compulsory courses, you will have the opportunity to study abroad at one of Malmö University’s 250 partner universities. You can also choose to work on your master’s thesis while abroad.

The focus of the programme is to train your theoretical and analytical abilities. The coursework will help you to better understand and critically reflect upon education, regardless of your future role within the education system. You will also be prepared for future doctoral studies, leading to careers within education or research. The programme is part of an active research environment at the Faculty of Education and Society that includes the research groups Philosophical Studies of Education and Childhood and Education. These groups regularly invite speakers to seminars that students are encouraged to participate in. Several researchers in these groups also teach within the programme. The master’s degree will also qualify you for work in the field of education for both public and private organisations — national as well as international.

Entry requirements and selection

Here you can find the entry requirements, as well as how the available study places are distributed between applicants in the selection.

For general admissions enquiries please contact the Admissions Office:

Entry requirements

Degree of Bachelor in education, social sciences or the humanities, and the equivalent of Swedish secondary school English 6 or English B.


A professional qualification specialising in teaching that comprises 180 credits, of which 15 credits from an independent project, and the equivalent of Swedish secondary school English 6 or English B.


University credits completed 100%

Understanding the role of education in contemporary society

Johan Dahlbeck is an associate professor of education and programme coordinator for the master’s programme in educational theory. He...

Understanding the role of education in contemporary society

Johan Dahlbeck is an associate professor of education and programme coordinator for the master’s programme in educational theory. He explains why it’s important to consider education from different perspectives, and how the understanding of the subject’s history can be useful for understanding the role of education in society.

What does the programme cover? 

The programme covers in-depth studies of the history and development of educational theories and it juxtaposes standard positions within the field with critical responses that may not be as widely acknowledged. It covers different themes, identified as important for understanding the scope and influence of different theoretical traditions. These themes include studying the aims and forms of education; studying different conceptions of teaching and the teacher; studying educational formation of the individual and its relation to the formation of society; studying pedagogical relations as a generational concern and as a dynamic relation between the student, the teacher and the subject matter; studying the relation between education and politics, and; studying the relation between education and ethics. The programme also covers research methodology, philosophy of science, and an introduction into different styles of writing within the field of educational theory.

Why is it important to study educational theory?

Educational theory allows us to grapple with foundational educational questions; questions that, in turn, allow us to form a good understanding of what education is and what it is not, what it can be expected to do and what it cannot be expected to do. These questions have a long history and familiarizing ourselves with this, often turbulent, history can help us understand and critically interrogate the present in new and unexpected ways. If we want to influence contemporary educational practices, we should begin by forming a good understanding of their theoretical foundations and historical roots.

Why is this expertise needed?

Expertise in educational theory provides a broad foundation necessary for taking on theoretical investigations of educational matters. This is called for in contemporary society as education is frequently treated in terms of a means to an end, often political and/or economic, and seldom as an end in itself. Understanding educational theory helps students to reflect on this assumption and it helps them formulate alternative conceptions of the place and role of education in contemporary society. Expertise in educational theory is also an excellent starting point for anyone considering PhD studies in Education or in related fields.

What makes the programme unique?

The programme is unique in that it makes for the only international master’s programme in educational theory in Scandinavia. As such, it promises to stimulate the future of the field of educational theory in important ways. Another important aspect is that it reconnects the long-standing tradition of Scandinavian educational theory with a vibrant contemporary international community of scholars.

Why is Malmö University a good choice?

Malmö University is an attractive choice for international students as it is located in the middle of a fast-growing city that has undergone an exciting change from an industrial city to a vibrant multicultural meeting-place. Malmö University also hosts scholars who feature prominently in key contexts in international educational theory, giving the students of the programme access to international networks and to a good understanding of the field.