A statement from Executive Director Maria Balinska

We have been horrified and saddened by the brutal murder of George Floyd and so many others. We are devastated that communities of colour are being hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19. The pain of centuries of systemic anti-black racism is searing on both sides of the Atlantic. We recognise that this is a critical moment in the history of the UK and US and we want to emphasise our belief that Black lives matter and our commitment to rejecting racism, promoting justice, and protecting human rights.   

In this context, we would like to share some of the measures that we are taking to make sure that the US-UK Fulbright Commission is playing its role in this critical moment of global racial reckoning.  

Our vision is a world in which there are no obstacles to learning, understanding and collaboration. We aim to promote diversity, inclusion, and equity in all our education exchange programming. But we have work to do. Let me give you one example. While over 40% of the cohort of our most recent British Postgraduate Awardees self-identify as being from an ethnic or racial minority, it is also the case that none self-identify as Black. We must do better.  

Our 2020-23 Strategic Plan has identified widened participation as one of its two top priorities. To this end, we are investing new funding and new ideas in the recruitment, selection, and support of our grantees. We are expanding outreach and communication to make sure people from across our two countries know about Fulbright programming and feel empowered to apply.

We are making our selection processes more equitable by, for example, making sure our interview panels are diverse and that our staff has been trained to recognise unconscious bias. We are building more sessions about race and racism in both the UK and US across our programming in order to better prepare all our grantees for the experience of living, studying, and working in the other country.  

The second top priority of our Strategic Plan is to make a meaningful contribution to solving global challenges. Racial injustice and in particular anti-black racism is one of those challenges. Which is why the US-UK Fulbright Commission will soon be launching a Global Learning Teaching Award to support the development of a virtual course on race and racism in the US and UK that will connect American students and their professor with British students and their professor.

It is our belief that through the Fulbright mission of mutual understanding and the creation of connections we can help tackle the terrible stain of racism in both countries.   

It is imperative to act. But it is also important to listen. We want to hear what you think and what you feel. Please do send your thoughts, suggestions, and questions to alumni@fulbright.org.uk.