The Fulbright Program, the U.S. Government’s international exchange program, was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by former Senator J. William Fulbright. The program is designed “to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and people of other countries”. Under the Fulbright program, grants are awarded to American and foreign nationals to study, teach, lecture and conduct research abroad.

¨The rapprochement of peoples is only possible when differences of culture and outlook are respected and appreciated rather than feared and condemned, when the common bond of human dignity is recognized as the essential bond for a peaceful world.¨
-J. William Fulbright

The founder of the program was Senator J. William Fulbright. The culture shock he experienced as a 21-year old Rhodes Scholar in England convinced him that the way to achieve peace in the world was for people of all countries to get to know and respect each other’s traditions, cultures, and values. Senator Fulbright’s idea was simplicity itself. Create a program, with the whole world as its stage, that would simultaneously encourage students from as many countries as possible to study in the United States while persuading young Americans to live in, and come to know and understand, Africa, Asia, Europe, the Western Hemisphere, and the Pacific.

Senator J. William Fulbright received a B.A. in Political Science at the University of Arkansas in 1925. He then attended Oxford University where he received an M.A. degree. After returning to the United States, he went on to study law at George Washington University. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1942 and was appointed to the Foreign Affairs Committee of Congress in 1943. In September of that year, the House adopted the Fulbright Resolution, which advocated international peace-keeping and encouraged the United States to take part in what became the United Nations. In 1946, his legislation establishing the Fulbright Program passed the Senate unanimously and the first participants in the Fulbright Program were selected and began their endeavours in 1948.

The program was originally financed by the sale of U.S. war surplus property, later also with U.S.-held foreign currencies from the sale of grain abroad, and by funds appropriated by Congress. In the early years, the program largely depended on American enthusiasm; as a new century approaches, it draws its energy from 51 binational Fulbright commissions and educational institutions in every corner of the globe. Today, about 60 percent of the program’s costs are covered by the government of the United States, with the rest coming from educational institutions, more than 40 governments of other nations, and the private sector. Now 21 of 51 partner nations match or exceed U.S. funding.

The term “Fulbright” covers a wide variety of programs: grants for American and foreign graduate students and graduating seniors; research awards for up to a year overseas for American and foreign scholars; lecturer awards; short-term faculty exchanges; efforts to bring public administrators to the United States; and programs to encourage exchanges of teachers and administrators, institutional linkages, the study of foreign languages, and doctoral and faculty research abroad.

Fulbright involves nearly every conceivable discipline in the arts and humanities, commerce and finance, science and technology, education, journalism, media, and government. It counts among its alumni distinguished men and women in every walk of life, at home and abroad. They include poets and presidents, Nobel Laureates and syndicated columnists, artists and business leaders, economists, physicians, actors, playwrights, financiers, and cabinet officials. Whatever the field of study or profession of its recipients, the Fulbright experience has enlarged and deepened the perspective of potential national and international leaders.

Since the Fulbright Program began in 1946, more than 300,000 Fulbrighters from over 155 countries have participated.

Since the beginning of the Fulbright Program in 1946, more than 189.000 foreign nationals have gone to the United States for study, teaching, lecturing or research. More than 101.000 Americans have gone abroad.

In the United States, the Fulbright Program is funded by the U.S. State Department through annual appropriations from the U.S. Congress.

Grants are available to U.S. citizens for post-graduate study, post-doctoral research, and university lecturing in over 140 countries around the world. For non-Americans, grants are also available for similar purposes in the United States.

Overseas, the Fulbright Program is administered by bi-national Fulbright Commissions. In non-Commission countries, the Fulbright Program is administered by the Public Affairs section of the U.S. Embassy.  Find out more about the Overseas Fulbright Commissions.

The Fulbright Program has been called the single most productive contribution of the United States to positive international relations.