Fulbright Program Overview
The Fulbright Program, the flagship international academic exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government, has fostered mutual understanding between the United States and other countries since 1946.
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 program provides awards to approximately 8,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and professionals each year from the United States and 160 countries. Fulbright is unique in its binationalism and noted for its merit-based selection process and academic prestige. Fulbrighters come from all backgrounds and are selected regardless of their race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, geographic location, socio-economic status, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
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.
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 60 Nobel Prize recipients, 75 MacArthur Foundation Fellows, 89 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 40 current or former heads of state or government.
Senator J. William Fulbright
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.
As our nation continues to grapple with racial justice and civil rights issues, we need to acknowledge the mixed legacy of Senator Fulbright. While his visionary leadership on international relations gave rise to greater engagement, his voting record on civil rights contributed to the perpetuation of racism and inequality in the United States. His segregationist stance and his opposition to racial integration in public places, including in education, are clearly at odds with the ideals of the Fulbright Program.
Today, as the Fulbright Program marks its 75th anniversary in 2021, its legacy is represented by hundreds of thousands of distinguished and diverse alumni, who are contributing to a more peaceful, equitable, prosperous, and just world. The Fulbright Program has a long record of achievement in promoting diversity and inclusion and of striving to ensure that its participants are fully representative of society in the U.S. and abroad. The Program and its administrators are deeply committed to redoubling efforts to increase and enhance the Fulbright Program’s diversity, equity, and inclusion, working in concert with partner governments, Fulbright commissions, institutions of higher education, participants, and alumni worldwide.
Resources on Senator Fulbright’s life and career:
- Johnson, Haynes, and Bernard M. Gwertzman. Fulbright: The Dissenter. Garden City, NY: Doubleday Co., 1968.
- Woods, R.B. Fulbright: A Biography. Cambridge University Press, 1995.
- “J. William Fulbright, Senate Giant, Is Dead at 89”, by R. W. Apple Jr., The New York Times, February 10, 1995.
- “Context required in Fulbright debate,” by Hoyt Purvis, Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 22, 2020. https://www.nwaonline.com/news/2020/jul/22/context-required-fulbright-de...
- The Fulbright Paradox: Race and the Road to a New American Internationalism,” by Charles King, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2021.