The global Fulbright Program was created in 1946 in the aftermath of World War II through legislation introduced by Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. A 1948 treaty between the US and the UK governments specifically created the US-UK Fulbright Commission, one of the first Fulbright programmes in the world.
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. Today we are the only exchange programme offering scholarships for students and scholars both ways across the Atlantic and our awards span every discipline.
Our work creates impact through the promotion of academic excellence and curiosity, advancing human knowledge. Through our immersive exchange programmes we invest in human potential and increase social mobility. Our programmes cultivate communities and deepen understanding between the peoples of the US and the UK. Our alumni have gone on to be politicians and authors, business professionals, composers and Nobel laureates.
Our 20,000+ 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.
Senator J. William Fulbright
William Fulbright was a prominent and gifted American statesman of the 20th century. His unequalled contribution to international affairs and his tenure as the longest serving chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee distinguished his political career of over thirty years in the United States Congress. He had a profound influence on America’s foreign policy. It was his vision for mutual understanding that shaped the extraordinary exchange programme bearing his name, a programme that explicitly promotes the empathy gained from cultural immersion as a key learning for all its awardees or, as they are known, Fulbrighters.
As the United States and nations around the world continue to grapple with racial and social justice issues, it is important to recognise that there are negative and painful aspects to Senator Fulbright’s biography. 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 and its legacy of hundreds of thousands of distinguished and diverse alumni, who are contributing to a more peaceful, equitable and just world.
A commitment to achieving excellence in education through diversity and inclusion
The global 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 US-UK Fulbright Commission strongly opposes prejudice, racism and discrimination in all its forms. There is much work to be done to heal society’s open wounds, and we must not shy away from working towards racial equality and social justice. Diversity and inclusion are essential components of educational excellence, and this is at the very heart of the work we do.
As our Strategic Plan 2020-2023 states, we believe that to solve our shared global problems we urgently need to bring to the table a diversity of experiences and perspectives. We need to create environments where meaningful connections can be formed between people of all backgrounds. We need better understanding of the problems we are dealing with and more global citizens who know how to communicate and work together.
Our Global Challenges Teaching Awards – a new initiative launched in autumn 2021 – are one example of how we are addressing these needs. Funding pairs of teaching faculty – one US, one UK – to co-create and co-deliver a semester long virtual exchange between their two universities, these awards will democratise global learning and promote innovative teaching on the challenges of climate change, pandemics and racial justice.
More information on the steps the Commission is taking to represent the vibrant diversity of both the US and UK and to embrace a culture of respect, engagement and belonging is available in our strategic plan.
Celebrating 70 years
In 2018, the US-UK celebrated its 70th anniversary. More details about the celebrations can be found here.