History of the Fulbright Program    

In 1925, J. William Fulbright traveled from the United States to England to attend Oxford University. During his time in Europe, he toured the continent and developed an appreciation for the power of international exchange. In 1946, as the junior Senator from Arkansas, Fulbright proposed that the United States government use the proceeds from the sale of surplus war property to fund the “promotion of international good will through the exchange of students in the fields of education, culture and science.” One year later, President Harry S. Truman signed the Fulbright Act into law.

More than half a century later, the Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. 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.

Click here for more information on the history of the Fulbright Program.

Program Structure

The Fulbright Program is administered by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, whose mission is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange that assist in the development of peaceful relations. Fulbright is the Bureau’s flagship exchange program within the Office of Academic Exchange Programs, serving over 8,000 participants each year. Within the Fulbright portfolio, over a dozen unique programs exist to meet the needs and complement the talents of students, scholars and professionals.

The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation by the United States Congress to the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support.

ECA administers the Fulbright Program under policy guidelines established by the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board (FFSB) with the assistance of binational commissions and foundations in 49 countries, U.S. embassies in more than 100 other countries and cooperating agencies in the United States. The FFSB, composed of 12 educational and public leaders appointed by the President of the United States, formulates policies for the administration of the Program, establishes criteria for the selection of candidates and selects candidates nominated for awards.

Program Impact

In the 70 years since its founding, the Fulbright Program has provided international exchange opportunities to more than 370,000 participants in the United States and over 160 countries and other areas. Fulbright alumni serve in leadership positions in government, academia, business, the arts, science, journalism, and other professional fields and are the recipients of Nobel Prizes, Pulitzer Prizes, MacArthur Foundation Awards, and U.S. Presidential Medals of Freedom.

More Information

For more information about other Fulbright programs and initiatives, visit the Fulbright Program website.

If you are a prospective host institution and are interested in learning more about the Fulbright Specialist Program, please see Host Institutions Eligibility.

If you are a prospective Fulbright Specialist interested in learning more about the Fulbright Specialist Program, please see Specialists Eligibility.