In the frame of the Phare Programme for multi-country co-operation in distance education (DE), the Paisii Hilendarski University of Plovdiv (PU) has been selected as a host institution for establishment of a Regional Distance Education Study Centre (RDESC). The premises provided free of rent by the University of Plovdiv as to contribution to the operation of the RDESC are as follows: an office, two classrooms, a library room and a video hall (about 40 seats). Its opening hours are from 11.00 to 14.00 and from 16.00 to 19.00 every working day, and from 9.00 to 12.00 on Saturday. The RDESC is situated at the main building of the PU: The Paisii Hilendarski University of Plovdiv; Regional Distance Education Study Centre; 24, Tzar Assen St., Room 359; 4000 Plovdiv, Bulgaria. The investment, operational and strategic management of the RDESC is carried out by the Consultative Body, consisting of Head, Manager, Financial officer and six academic staff, including one vice-rector, deans and vice-deans.

The main role of the RDESC in the national educational infrastructure is to promote DE as alternative of part-time education and for some appropriate specialities of Faculties for Open and Continuing education; to develop post-graduate and dislocated studies as forms of DE; to spread good practice and experience acquired by the system of post-graduate studies by means of DE, defining the scope of the initiative within the region; to select specialities, courses and themes to be involved in DE, etc.

The centre shall co-operate with all teaching departments at the host institution, as well as with other external education and training providers and public and private user organisations, about the building-up and continuous development and dissemination of a portfolio of distance educational and training programmes. The courses developed and provided by the centre shall be relevant to the social and economic development in the region and to European integration. The centre shall co-operate with other Phare DESCs in the country and in other Phare countries about extending its course delivery and its tutoring and student support services to learners outside the region. The DE courses are intended for various categories of learners as follows: students, educated and trained in the credit courses; teachers at secondary schools, needing updated courses and training; adult professionals who for various reasons, need quickly to acquire new knowledge and skills at work; young people who have recently entered the labour market and who need to complement further their secondary education; students at Free and Continuing Education Faculties specialising in different subjects and requiring specific skills for entering the labour market, etc.

The RDESC shall co-operate with the National Centre of Distance Education (NCDE) and other DE centres about training of people responsible for the development of DE and training programmes (course developers, designer, writers, editors, etc.). The RDESC shall assist course developers and teachers with the validation and quality assessment of all aspects of the DE and training programmes, including quality assessment of the instructional design, course materials, learner support, etc. The RDESC shall provide training for the staff responsible for learner support (tutors, counsellors, administrators, etc.).

In the short-time period (1.11.1997 30.10.1998), the main objectives and activities that will be conducted under the Phare multi-country programme are systematised as follows.

The planned activities are in four main directions as follows: