The Fulbright Program
In September 1945, the freshman senator from Arkansas, J. William Fulbright, introduced a bill in the U.S. Congress that called for the use of proceeds from the sales of surplus war property to fund the “promotion of international good will through the exchange of students in the fields of education, culture and science.” One year later, President Harry S. Truman signed the Fulbright Act into law.
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 program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It 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. More than 400,000 "Fulbrighters" have participated in the Program since its inception in 1946.
Currently, the Fulbright Program operates in over 160 countries worldwide.
The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). Participating government and host institutions, corporations and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support.
- The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) administers the Program under policy guidelines established by the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board with the assistance of binational commissions and foundations in 49 countries, U.S. embassies in more than 100 other countries and cooperating agencies in the United States.
- The Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board: Appointed by the President of the United States, the 12-member Board was established by Congress to supervise the global Fulbright Program as authorized by the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961. Representing diverse facets of American society, Board members select scholars to participate in Fulbright exchanges. The Board also establishes policies for Fulbright selection and operating procedures.
- Binational Fulbright Commissions and Foundations plan and implement educational exchanges, recruit and nominate candidates for fellowships; designate qualified local educational institutions to host Fulbrighters; fundraise; engage alumni; support incoming U.S. Fulbrighters; and, in many countries, operate an information service for the public on study in the United States. Where Fulbright commissions do not exist, the program is administered by U.S. embassies in cooperation with host country governments. Currently, there are 49 Fulbright Commissions worldwide, most of which are funded jointly by the U.S. and partner governments.
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), and became well known for its expertise and extensive experience in conducting international exchange programs for scholars and university administrators. For decades, CIES administered the Fulbright Scholar Program, the United States’ flagship academic exchange initiative, on behalf of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State. In 1996, administration of the Fulbright Scholar Program transferred to the Institute of International Education (IIE), a premier nonprofit educational and cultural exchange organization established in 1919, while the CIES Advisory Board continued as an independent body providing valuable guidance on the administration and future trajectory of the program. The four academic societies (ACLS, NAS, SSRC, and ACE) that founded CIES continue to be represented on the CIES Advisory Board.
The CIES Advisory Board is composed of higher education experts from a variety of colleges, universities, and institutions dedicated to furthering international education and multicultural understanding. Several members are alumni of the Fulbright program. Board members provide insight and advice that helps ECA and IIE fulfill the program’s mission and they act as powerful advocates of Fulbright on their campuses and within the higher education community.
The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the United States Department of State strives to ensure that its programs reflect and value the diversity of U.S. society and societies abroad. The Bureau seeks and encourages the involvement of people from traditionally underrepresented audiences in all its grants, programs and other activities, as well as in its workforce and workplace. Opportunities are open to people regardless of their race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, geographic location, socio-economic status, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The Bureau is committed to fairness, equity, and inclusion.
Policy on Fulbright Affinity Groups: The Bureau recognizes that affinity groups have the potential to provide valuable contributions to Fulbright grantees and their exchange experience. While these activities are not funded by, or officially associated with, the Bureau’s Office of Academic Exchange Programs, which manages the Fulbright Program, affinity groups are currently playing an important role in:
- helping to recruit candidates who reflect the diversity of U.S. society and societies abroad
- helping to engage exchange program alumni as ambassadors for the program
- serving as a forum for Fulbright participants, applicants, and alumni to ask targeted questions, seek mentorship, develop ideas, and share recommendations
- helping to fulfill the mission of the Fulbright Program
- helping to foster diversity and inclusion in the Fulbright Program
We appreciate the work of those active in affinity groups and other groups that support the Fulbright experience and/or engage with program alumni, grantees, and prospective candidates, along with program stakeholders and supporters.
ECA recognizes these groups as being founded by, with, and for grantees and alumni. In order to be equitable and inclusive of all such groups, ECA will maintain a policy of non-endorsement of specific affinity groups. As always, members of affinity groups, along with all other Fulbright alumni, are encouraged to:
- share their experiences
- apply for open calls for funding through the International Exchange Alumni community, Fulbright Commissions, U.S. Embassies and Consulates, and other public, private, and non-profit sources
- form and maintain a digital presence on relevant sites such as the Fulbrighter networking platform and on social media; however, a statement must be included which explains that the group is self-governed and not officially associated with the Fulbright Program or ECA.
- contact relevant stakeholders, including the Office of Academic Exchange Programs / Fulbright Program, Fulbright Commissions, Public Affairs Sections at U.S. Embassies and Consulates, Fulbright program implementing partners (including the Institute of International Education (IIE), World Learning, AMIDEAST, and Laspau), and the U.S. Fulbright Association and other Fulbright alumni associations, with questions, recommendations, or ideas.