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History and Mission

In the middle of the XX century, U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright submitted to Congress a project that would change the history of academic and cultural exchanges forever. Facing the devastation left by World War II, Senator Fulbright came to the conclusion that the best, and perhaps the only, way to lay the foundations of a lasting peace, would be to encourage large numbers of people to live and study in other countries: thus, they would get to know each other and learn to respect each other’s institutions, values and cultures.

Following Senator Fulbright’s initiative, the United States Congress passed the legislation that created the Fulbright Program in 1946.

The goal of promoting mutual understanding across nations originally pursued by the program remains intact. More than half a century later, the Fulbright Program has become the world’s largest, best-known, and most prestigious educational exchange program due to:

  • The academic, professional and personal caliber of its participants
  • Its political and intellectual independence
  • Its high standards and the competitiveness of its grants
  • Its respect for the different cultures of the participating countries.

Currently, 155 countries participate in the Fulbright Program and over 300,000 people have received Fulbright awards. Fulbright alumni include 43 Nobel Prize winners, world government officials, acclaimed artists, scientists, and leaders from all over the world.

The primary source of funding for the program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress. In 2009, the U.S. Government contributed US$ 253,000,000 to fund the Fulbright Program worldwide. In addition, government agencies and private organizations from participating countries contribute financially through donations and cost-shared, educational cooperation agreements.

The program is administered by the U.S. Department of State under policy guidelines established by the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. This Board is composed of twelve members drawn from academic, cultural and public life who are appointed by the President of the United States. Overseas, the Fulbright program is administered by bi-national Commissions established by executive agreements between the U.S. government and the host countries. In non-commission countries the Fulbright Program is administered by the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassies.

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