Fulbright Scholarship Program
The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by then Senator of Arkansas, Senator J. W. Fulbright.
The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The Fulbright Program awards approximately 8,000 grants annually. Roughly 1,600 U.S. students, 4,000 foreign students, 1,200 U.S. scholars, and 900 visiting scholars receive awards, in addition to several hundred teachers and professionals. Approximately 310,000 “Fulbrighters” have participated in the Program since its inception in 1946. Currently, the Fulbright Program operates in over 155 countries worldwide.
The Fulbright Scholarship Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the United States government and is designed to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.” The Program was signed into law by President Truman in 1946.
Senator J. William Fulbright succinctly described the purpose of the Program as follows:
“Fostering leadership, learning and empathy between cultures was and remains the purpose of the international scholarship program.”
“Educational exchange can turn nations into people, contributing as no other form of communication can to the humanizing of international relations.”
Today, Fulbright is the most widely recognized and prestigious international exchange program in the world, supported for more than half a century by the American people through an annual appropriation from the U.S. Congress and by the people of partner nations. The program—working with universities, schools, binational Fulbright commissions, government agencies, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector—actively seeks out individuals of achievement and potential who represent the full diversity of their respective societies and selects nominees through open, merit-based competitions.
The Fulbright-Hays Act
The final legislative underpinnings of academic exchange came with the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961. Also known as the Fulbright-Hays Act (Senator Fulbright introduced it in the Senate and Representative Wayne Hays of Ohio, in the House), this law remains the basic charter for all U.S. government-sponsored educational and cultural exchanges. It is the most comprehensive of all the Congressional actions, consolidating all previous laws and adding new features that strengthened the program’s authorization for supporting American studies abroad and promoting modern foreign language and area studies schools and colleges in the United States.
Under the Fulbright-Hays Act, the exchanges under the supervision of the Fulbright Scholarship Board were further extended geographically. By 1971, there was some form of academic exchange with 100 countries. Today, Fulbright operates in over 155 countries in all world regions.
For more than 60 years, the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) has helped administer the Fulbright Scholar Program, the U.S. government’s flagship academic exchange effort, on behalf of the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Founded in 1947, CIES is a private organization. CIES, the scholar division of the Institute of International Education (IIE), is well known for its expertise and extensive experience in conducting international exchange programs for scholars and university administrators. CIES was founded as a non profit organization in 1947 by four prestigious academic associations – the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), National Academy of Sciences (NAS), Social Science Research Council (SSRC), and American Council on Education (ACE). Since 1996, CIES has been a division of the Institute of International Education (IIE), a premier nonprofit educational and cultural exchange organization established in 1919.
The Fulbright Program is further administered by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State under policy guidelines established by the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board (FSB) and in cooperation with a number of private organizations.
The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs develops policies to ensure fulfillment of the purposes of the Fulbright Program and administers the Program with the assistance od binational commissions and foundations in 50 countries, U.S. embassies in more than 100 other countries and a number of cooperating agencies in the United States.
The J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, was established by Congress for the purpose of supervising the Fulbright Program and certain programs authorized by the Fulbright-Hays Act and for the purpose of selecting students, scholars, teachers, trainees, and other persons to participate in the educational exchange programs. Appointed by the President of the United States, the 12-member Board meets quarterly in Washington, D.C. The Board establishes worldwide policies and procedures for the Program and issues an annual report on the state of the Program. The Board maintains a close relationship with both the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and the executive directors of all the binational Fulbright Commissions.
Binational Commissions and Foundations
The Fulbright Program’s stature and success is based on its sustained commitment to international bilateral partnership and joint priority-setting between the United States and over 155 countries. The binational approach grew out of the original Fulbright Act, which authorized the U.S. Secretary of State to enter into executive agreements with foreign governments to manage the funds derived from the sale of surplus war property through foundations. While the Fulbright Act did not require the organization of these foundations along binational lines, the first program administrators agreed that the mutual interests of the United States and other countries would best served through joint cooperation in program planning, decision-making and management.
Binational Commissions and Foundations abroad propose the annual country programs, which establish the numbers and categories of grants based on input from local institutions. In a country without a commission or foundation, the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy develops and supervises the Fulbright Program. Currently, 50 commissions are active, 47 of which are funded jointly by the United States and the respective government. Each commission or foundation has a board, which is composed of an equal number of Americans and citizens of the participating nation. Some Fulbright programs are administered directly by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Others are administered with the assistance of cooperating agencies.