The European distance education scene is extraordinarily active, even more so since the political events which led to the disappearance of the Soviet bloc. The region’s five open universities, in Germany (not strictly a national institution although it operates outside its own Länd), the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom, are well established, as Baumeister’s chapter attests, but they were preceded by a number of Scandinavian correspondence colleges, which have now transcended that title, have degree-level courses among their offerings, and use technologies every bit as advanced as those of any other higher education institution.
Europe is one of the world’s regions where the trend towards dual-mode provision is most pronounced. This applies across both Western and Central and Eastern Europe. Szücs and Jenkins describe the experience of Hungary, where distance education centres have been set up in a number of universities in preference to the establishment of a national single-mode institution. The trend is also strongly reflected in the United Kingdom, where a majority of universities now operate distance education programmes. These tend to originate from initiatives of individual faculties or departments. Open learning programmes, which may or may not include a distance component, are also very common in the United Kingdom and across Europe, but they tend to be developed most frequently at sub-degree levels. Flexible learning is another term which is frequently encountered, sometimes associated with the increasing tendency towards modularisation of degree-level and other courses.
The European Commission is very influential in open and distance education in Europe in a variety of ways, as a note about its work indicates. Current programmes such as SOCRATES and Leonardo da Vinci, and earlier programmes such as DELTA, have been heavily subscribed by higher education institutions with an involvement or an interest in involvement in open and distance learning. Szücs and Jenkins also describe Commission programmes which operate in Eastern and Central Europe. The Commission has encouraged cooperation both across national boundaries and across sectors, so that educational institutions cooperate with private organisations as