The Fulbright Program is the flagship international academic exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to foster mutual understanding between the United States and other countries. While the Fulbright Commission in Brussels administers the Fulbright Program for citizens of Belgium and Luxembourg as well as participants in the Fulbright Schuman Program, globally the program annually awards approximately 8,000 grants to students, scholars, teachers, artists, and professionals from the United States and 160 countries. More than 400,000 “Fulbrighters” from over 160 countries have participated in the program since its inception in 1946.
Fulbright alumni from the United States and around the world have gone on to achieve distinction in government, science, the arts, business, philanthropy, and education. Among the ranks of Fulbright alumni are 62 Nobel Prize recipients, 78 MacArthur Foundation Fellows, 89 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 41 current or former heads of state or government. In Belgium alone, alumni of the Fulbright Program include politicians, diplomats, university rectors, CEOs, and award-winning artists and musicians. From its inception, the Fulbright Program has fostered bilateral relationships in which other countries and governments work with the U.S. to set joint priorities and shape the program to meet shared needs.
The Fulbright Program was created in 1946 in the aftermath of World War II through legislation introduced by the late Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, passed by the U.S. Congress, and signed into law by President Harry Truman. Since its inception, over 400,000 Fulbrighters from the United States and 165 countries, supported by the American people and partner governments around the world, have studied, taught, and conducted research in each other’s countries while promoting international understanding and collaboration as participants and alumni. The creation of, and sustained support for, the Fulbright Program reflects a shared global vision for peaceful relations among nations.
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.
Since 1946, the Fulbright Program has continued to be agile and innovative in its approaches to fostering mutual understanding and people-to-people connections. In the 21st century, Fulbrighters address critical priorities in all world areas while building relationships, knowledge, and leadership in support of the long-term interests of the United States and the world. The program has prepared participants to address the major global challenges of our time, from energy sustainability and economic development to public health and food security. The Fulbright Program also has a significant and lasting local impact. Upon returning to their home countries, institutions, or classrooms, Fulbrighters share their stories and experiences and often engage in follow-on projects or continue the work they started abroad. This engagement creates a multiplier effect that leads to lifelong collaborations between communities.
The Fulbright Program awards more than 3,000 competitive, merit-based grants annually to students, scholars, teachers, artists, scientists, and professionals from across the United States. Fulbrighters hail from hundreds of U.S. institutions of all types and sizes; they study, teach and research in almost 100 different academic and professional fields; and they exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns in more than 140 countries. Each Fulbrighter’s experience is unique and depends on a variety of factors, including project details, location, and language abilities. Despite the variety of experiences, Fulbrighters all describe their experiences as life changing and having a profound influence on their professional and personal endeavors.
Each year, the U.S. Congress appropriates funds to the U.S. Department of State to sponsor the Fulbright Program. Many foreign governments contribute substantially as well. Additional direct or in-kind funding is provided by U.S. and foreign institutions of higher education, non-governmental organizations, private organizations, corporate partnerships, and individual donors.
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) administers the Fulbright Program under policy guidelines established by the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board (FFSB). Binational Fulbright Commissions in 49 countries develop priorities for the program, including the number and categories of grants. Commissions are funded jointly by the United States and respective host governments and governed by boards composed of citizens of the United States and partner nations. In the approximately 100 countries without Fulbright Commissions, the U.S. Embassy’s Public Affairs Section (PAS) supervises the Fulbright Program. Several U.S. non-profit organizations administer components of the program in the United States on behalf of the Department of State.
On 8 October 1948, an Agreement between the United States of America and Belgium and Luxembourg created a unique tri national commission for the purposes of promoting academic exchange amongst the three countries. The Commission for Educational Exchange between the United States, Belgium and Luxembourg was intended “to continue and expand programs to promote further mutual understanding between the peoples of the United States of America and of Belgium and Luxembourg by a wider exchange of knowledge and professional talents through education means.”
Today, the Fulbright Commission in Brussels administers the Fulbright Program for Belgium and Luxembourg, the Fulbright Schuman Program (European Union) and runs an EducationUSA Advising Center.