zfh at a glance

Zentrum für Fernstudien im Hochschulverbund - zfh: the new name of the ZFH since 12 September 2018, which was established in 1995 as Zentralstelle für Fernstudien an Fachhochschulen (ZFH)  and has its registered office in Koblenz, is a scientific institution of the German states of Rheinland-Pfalz, Saarland and Hessen. zfh promotes and supports the development and implementation of distance learning studies in these German federal states and in that respect co-operates with 18 universities.

Historically, the distance learning programme follows on from the further education initiative of the Rheinland-Pfalz ministry (Ministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft, Jugend und Kultur), which is based on the recommendations of the Scientific Council dating back to 1992. These recommendations are, in particular, geared towards increasing the number of established university further-education distance learning courses for those in employment, and alleviating access to courses based on professional experience. Therefore, the distance learning courses are targeted to university graduates and those in employment who have acquired job experience over many years. However, the courses also offer a wide range of opportunities to gain subsequent and higher qualifications for persons wishing to change professions.

Over the past few years, in addition to the further-education distance learning courses, undergraduate distance learning courses leading to a Bachelor qualification have also been set up, which above all enable persons with many years' professional experience and university entrance qualifications to obtain an initial university qualification while working in their profession.

The number of students has continually increased since ZFH was established. In the meantime, more than 6,000 students have registered with the participating universities for distance learning courses. This figure is set to rise because the distance learning course format of the universities offers a diverse mixture of guided self-study, e-learning components and application-oriented classroom phases. The distance learning courses may, in part, be chosen in the form of an overall study course over a period of up to ten semesters, but also in the form of selected modules. Accordingly, the course qualifications are conditional on the selected study course and study period. Qualifications range from further-education and single certificates to Bachelors and Masters. All zfh distance learning courses with a view to obtaining a Bachelor or Master qualification are certified by the accreditation agencies AQAS, ZEvA, AQUIN, FIBAA or AHPGS, and are therefore internationally recognised. Furthermore, zfh is successfully accredited as a provider of further-education and qualification programmes by the Institute for Quality Development of the Hesse Ministry of Culture. Accordingly, when the Social Skills distance learning course is chosen, Hessen lecturers are granted 40 performance points in accordance with Section 8 of the Hesse IQ and Accreditation Regulation.

The programme currently comprises more than 70 distance learning courses and includes social sciences, business administration and technical fields

The distance learning courses are conducted and supported by professors from the participating universities in conjunction with zfh. In addition, these teachers put together the required study materials, correct work and provide lectures during the classroom phases. The employees at zfh are responsible for maintaining, further developing and dispatching study materials, supporting universities in respect of PR work and course organisation, and providing interested parties with comprehensive advice about distance learning courses.

Administration and Organisation

The German State Treaty on "Distance Learning courses at Universities" forms the legal basis for the state-wide distance learning co-operation between the German federal states Rheinland-Pfalz, Saarland and Hessen, and the framework for the structure and organisation of zfh. With effect from 1 September 2008, zfh has been administered by Professor Dr Ralf Haderlein. As a professor for social sciences at Hochschule Koblenz - University of Applied Sciences, Professor Dr. Haderlein simultaneously administers the distance learning study Bachelor of Arts: Education and Social Management focussing on Early Childhood, and therefore in addition to his interdisciplinary scientific background has gained many years' experience in the field of developing and conducting distance learning studies with universities.

Mr Marc Bludau has been the ZFH managing director since 1 January 2011.
He gained his management and university experience at Fachhochschule Worms - University of Applied Sciences, where he held responsibility for the topics "New Organisation Administration EDP", "Student Matters", "International University Marketing" and "University Course and Apprenticeship".

The Deputy Managing Director position is held by Dr. Margot Klinkner, an educational scientist with a wealth of experience in distance learning course development, university marketing, quality management and professional further-education at universities.

The structure and organisation of Zentralstelle für Fernstudien are geared towards its core skills, which focus on distance learning course development, distance learning course administration and organisation, marketing, press and PR work and quality management and evaluation.

zfh committees

Headquarters administration
A professor from the German state of Rheinland-Pfalz is responsible to the pertinent ministry, represents the state of Rheinland-Pfalz in matters concerning zfh – Zentrum für Fernstudien im Hochschulverbund in and out of court, informs the public in respect of performing the tasks and ensures that the executive committees of zfh and the participating universities collaborate successfully. The administrator is elected by the central committee for 4 years.

The central committee
In addition to the administrator of zfh, the central committee members include the presidents and principals of the universities of applied sciences that participate in developing or conducting distance learning studies. Students and other employees are also members. This committee is to decide on the setting up, amending and withdrawing distance learning studies in consultation with the supervisory board.

The expert commissions
The expert commissions are responsible for examination and course regulations, conception development for teaching materials, co-ordinating classroom events, and selecting authors and expert support for preparing study materials.

The supervisory board
The supervisory board represents the involved German states, supports Zentralstelle für Fernstudien an Fachhochschulen in honouring its tasks, decides on the legal regulations to be issued (in particular fees) and the budget proposal, and elects the zfh – Zentrum für Fernstudien im Hochschulverbund management. Introducing new study courses and issuing examination and course regulations are subject to consultation with the supervisory board.

The managing director deals with the ongoing legal and administrative matters. He is the authorised representative for the budget in accordance with section 9 of the State Budget Regulation of the German state of Rheinland-Pfalz, and represents the administrator.