Zentralstelle für Fernstudien an Fachhochschulen (ZFH), which was established in 1995 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.