The Swedish Institute at Athens is a private foundation financed mainly by the Swedish government through the Ministry of Education. The government also appoints the chairman of the board and an auditor to audit the accounts. The first paragraph of the statutes, giving the framework within which the Institute must function, must always be approved by the government: It is the scope of the Institute to further research into the culture of ancient Greece, to further education in the field in order to enrich our own culture and to stimulate and support the cultural exchange between Sweden and Greece.

According to Greek law all foreign archaeological institutes or schools are Archaeological Schools, i.e. they are non-profit research institutions. The Swedish Institute at Athens has its judicial seat in Stockholm and its board consists of a chairman and, at the most, eleven other members, representing Classical Archaeology, Ancient Greek and Art History. Postgraduates in Classical Archaeology choose one representative and two of the board members must be experienced in administration and finance.

Approximately 90% of the Institute budget is covered by government money. Various Swedish private foundations provide the rest of the funding. All research associated with the Institute is covered by external funding and each scholar is responsible to find such funding for any kind of project.

In Greece the Swedish Institute has a status as one of the 17 Foreign Archaeological Schools in Athens. The functions of the schools are defined in the Greek law of antiquities, and there is a department at the Hellenic Ministry of Culture that deals specifically with research applications from the schools as well as those from other research institutions which do not belong to the Archaeological Service. In accordance with the law, the schools are obliged to administer all archaeological research conducted in Greece by scholars in their home countries. They are privileged to conduct archaeological field work on Greek soil under a number of conditions, including that they maintain a research library that is accessible to Greek scholars, and that they publish the results of their work in a scientific journal.

The Swedish Institute at Athens was founded in 1948, but earned a full status as an Archaeological School only in 1975.