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 Fulbright Program is 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 of 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, composed of 12 educational and public leaders appointed by the President of the United States, formulates policies for the administration of the Program, establishes criteria for the selection of candidates and approves candidates nominated for awards.
- 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. (Contact addresses and telephone numbers for each cooperating agency are provided on page five of this fact sheet.) Foreign citizens interested in the Fulbright Program should contact the Fulbright Commission or Foundation in their home country or, where no commission exists, the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy.
The Council for International Exchange of Scholars (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. For over seventy years, CIES (www.cies.org) has administered the Fulbright Scholar Program, the United States flagship academic exchange effort, on behalf of the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). 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 four academic societies (ACLS, NAS, SSRC, and ACE) that founded CIES continue to be represented on the CIES Advisory Board.
CIES maintains deep ties with the higher education community in the United States and abroad, including individual universities and colleges, major scholarly organizations, and academic associations. CIES also collaborates with a network of bi-national Fulbright Commissions in 49 countries and 90 U.S. diplomatic posts around the world. Since its inception, CIES has conducted a rigorous annual peer review process that assures the competitive selection of scholars for lecture and research awards. Annually, more than 300 academics and professionals with exceptional expertise in their field serve on CIES discipline and peer review committees reviewing applications of U.S. and foreign scholars. In addition, CIES organizes seminars for higher education administrators, plans and implements academic conferences, facilitates connections between scholars and host institutions, manages visa applications, provides an effective orientation program for scholars, and facilitates cultural awareness programs to support the effective integration of scholars in their host institutions and countries.
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.