Following the establishment of Zentralstelle in 1995, the ratification of the "State Treaty on Distance learning Courses at Universities" in 1998 provided the legal basis for the state-wide co-operation between the German states Rheinland-Pfalz, Hessen and Saarland. This was the official start for the ZFH-Fernstudienverbund. On the occasion of its 20th anniversary, on 12 September 2018, ZFH received a new, contemporary designation and a new logo, emphasizing the idea of cooperation and taking account of changes within the university (of applied sciences) landscape: zfh – Zentrum für Fernstudien im Hochschulverbund. The new name is currently being successively implemented in all communication channels and information materials.
Development over the last 20 years shows that the founding fathers had the right idea about the forward-looking task when they established zfh. In the meantime more than 6,000 students have registered for the 80 plus distance learning courses in the 19 participating universities (of applied sciences). During the course of its 20-year history, zfh-Fernstudienverbund has become Germany's largest provider of accredited distance learning courses in the university (of applied sciences) sector.
While the co-operation of zfh-Fernstudienverbund focussed on the universities of applied sciences in the three participating states and the first distance learning courses in technical and economic subjects were set up at the participating (Fach) Hochschulen Trier, Koblenz, Gießen-Friedberg and Kaiserslautern - Universities of Applied Sciences in the initial years, the growing study programme from 2005 also saw co-operations with universities from other German federal states such as Nordrhein-Westfalen, Brandenburg, Bayern and - most recently - Berlin. The first association project was the informatics distance learning course in co-operation with the (Fach) Hochschulen Trier, Bingen, Worms and Fulda - Universities of Applied Sciences and the Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft des Saarlandes - University of Applied Sciences for Technology and Business. It remains a successful programme today in the form of a Masters distance learning course combined with an extremely flexible certificate course. The BASA University Association is a particularly successful model, which boasts participating universities of applied sciences from the locations Fulda, Koblenz, Wiesbaden, Münster, Potsdam and Berlin for the BASA-online distance learning course (Bachelor of Arts: Social Work). In the meantime, the programme has been supplemented with a consecutive Masters course – likewise as part of the University Association.
In view of the demographic developments, zfh-Fernstudienverbund has set itself the goal of promoting greater accessibility, openness and improved links between the education systems, and covering the growing need for higher qualification, by way of the ongoing expansion of the distance learning programme.