This is the first of four related blog posts about about an Erasmus+ Staff Training experience to the FernUniversität in Hagen which took place in June 2018.


I was recently able to take part in an Erasmus+ Staff Training week to the FernUniversität in Hagen, Germany. Hagen is a city located in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany and the FernUniversität (fern meaning remote in German), is the largest distance learning University in Germany with 80,000 students.

The staff training week was a unique experience to learn from a leading distance learning University, understand the German Higher Education system and to also a fantastic cultural exchange experience. The training week was well attended by delegates from various European Universities, including a number from distance learning Universities. The training week featured a number of workshops, presentations and discussions as well as opportunities to visit the facilities of the University. There were also a number cultural events arranged including a visit to a castle and an excursion to the nearby city of Dortmund.

The following is a summary of some of the things I learned during the week from attending presentations, visiting facilities and speaking to staff at the University:

About the University

The FernUniversität is the only German teaching distance learning University in the world. As expected, most of their students are based in Germany and the bordering countries where German may also be spoken. However, it was interesting to see that they also have students as far afield as America, Canada, and South America. The University was founded in 1974, following a similar model to that established by the UK Open University. Further information on the structure and course offerings of the FernUniversität can be found on their English language website. The FernUniversität has a range of students, however, typically students at the University will already have a first degree or they will be people studying later in life for the first time.

Study Centers

Interestingly, for a distance learning University, not all of the teaching is conducted remotely. The University has opened 60 regional study centers, the majority of which are located in Germany, however,  they have opened up a number of study centers abroad. The study centers allow an opportunity for the distance learning students to receive face-to-face teaching and advice on all areas of their studies. If there is a high concentration of students they will open a center to allow face-to-face teaching. If a student cannot attend one of these study centers they will try to provide a digital alternative, although from seeing the map of study centers it looks like it would be fairly easy for most German students to at least attend one.

In my next blog post I will be discussing how distance learning is delivered at the FernUniversität, including some of the learning technologies and innovative projects that they are undertaking. More to come next time…

Image of: Dortmunder U Art Gallery

Image credits: Photographs by James Brand