Applied higher education research is understood as a dynamic combination of empiricism, didactic intervention and organisational development that provides higher education managers with solid information about the quality and impacts of the study programmes and teaching that their institutions offer. Such information serves as a foundation for management decisions. Applied higher education research differs from "institutional research," an internationally common approach, in that it focuses not on higher education institutions' quality management in studies and teaching, but on their practical efforts to develop and improve, also through review and reflection, the education they offer their students. In intervention-research projects, and on a model basis, the ZHH develops instruments, methods and designs with which higher education institutions can independently develop and enhance their educational offerings in scientifically founded ways. In terms of research methods, this priority is implemented via interventional and organisational-developmental approaches drawn from social research. For this reason, the academic teachers involved participate in processing the resulting scientific findings, in interpreting the empirical data tied to such findings, and in publishing such findings.
In keeping with the needs of the university, the research topics to date have included:
- Development of academic aptitude in continuing education programmes
- Development of academic aptitude in engineering students, during students' introductory phase of studies in mathematics
- Promotion of learning processes in engineering students, and especially promotion of theory-practice transfer via media-didactic design of virtual access to real laboratories
- Processes of integration of political refugees who have academic backgrounds, or who are seeking to enter higher education, in the framework of a structured preparation programme
- The influence of institutional frameworks on student well-being, as a foundation for continuing good academic achievement
The Center has one W3-level professorship and a total of ten scientific and non-scientific staff positions. The professorship participates in the "vocational training and human resources development" doctoral programme ("Berufsbildung und Personalentwicklung") of Otto von Guericke University of Magdeburg; this facilitates structured support for ongoing doctoral projects.