In 1948, a treaty between the US and UK governments was signed in the House of Commons by UK Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin and US Chargé d'Affaires Don Bliss, in the presence of Senator Fulbright. The treaty established the US-UK Fulbright Commission, responsible for delivering the Fulbright awards.
The Fulbright Programme was the brain-child of Senator J William Fulbright, whose vision was for a peaceful and prosperous world. He believed that if people had the opportunity to immerse themselves in each other’s cultures, nations would never again find reason for war. His chosen vehicle was a global academic exchange programme that would be implemented around the world, with each agreement drawn up on bilateral lines.
The treaty between the US and the UK created one of the first Fulbright programmes in the world (similar treaties were signed with Greece, Belgium, France and Italy in the same year). In the early 1950s, the first UK Fulbrighters crossed the Atlantic, sailing into New York on the Queen Mary and the Mauritania.
Since then, thousands of Americans and Brits have benefitted from the opportunity to study in each other’s countries, and the experience has impacted their work and careers long after returning home.
In 2018, our awards span every discipline. There are awards for artists and scientists, filmmakers and mathematicians, actors and doctors, MBAs and MFAs, PhDs and MPAs. They come from communities across the US and the UK. Our alumni have gone on to be politicians and authors, business professionals, composers and Nobel laureates.
The US-UK Fulbright programme has contributed to intercultural understanding as well as bi-national leadership and security, cementing the “special relationship” between the US and the UK. It is the only scholarship programme offering scholarships for students and scholars both ways across the Atlantic, in any field and at any university.
The programme has changed and evolved over the years, but at its heart is the enduring belief that those who spend time immersed in another culture will have a profoundly different and deeper understanding of the world, make lasting friends and return home a more rounded and empathetic global citizen. Today, Fulbrighters are tackling some of the most urgent problems and issues facing the global community in collaborative ways. Fulbrighters recognise that the challenges we face require mutual understanding and collective action.
As we celebrate the 70 years so far, we look forward to continuing to fulfil Senator Fulbright’s vision of a world of peace and prosperity through education and greater understanding between our peoples.