Our Story

The global Fulbright Program was created in 1946 in response to an exceptional political situation – the end of a brutal world war and the urgent need for greater international understanding. A 1948 treaty between the US and the UK governments specifically established the US-UK Fulbright Commission, one of the first Fulbright programmes in the world.

In the beginning, Fulbright Scholars crossed the Atlantic by boat, sailing into New York, Liverpool and Southampton. Today, our Fulbright community comprises teachers, artists, scientists, and mathematicians; actors and doctors; MBAs, MFAs, PhDs and MPAs.   

Over the years, thousands of American and British students and scholars have benefitted from the opportunity to study in each other’s countries, and the experience has impacted their lives and their work long after returning home. Today we are the only exchange programme offering scholarships for students and scholars both ways across the Atlantic between the US and the UK, and our awards span every discipline. 

Celebrating 75 years of impact

It was on September 22, 1948 that the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom signed a treaty to create the US-UK Fulbright Commission, one of the first bilateral programmes of its kind. 

Seventy-five may be a venerable age but there is no diminishing the urgency of our work. The Fulbright mission of advancing knowledge and building empathy and civic engagement through education exchange remains as important as ever. 

Over the course of 2023, we celebrated the transformational stories of individual Fulbrighters and the impact our 25,000-strong alumni community has made on the world, whether as pioneering researchers and entrepreneurs or poets and politicians. Of equal importance, we are also looking ahead to our next decades and our strategic priorities of widening participation in Fulbright programming and supporting our Fulbright community to tackle global challenges.     

A commitment to achieving excellence in education through diversity and inclusion

At the US-UK Fulbright Commission, diversity, inclusion and equity are an integral part of the pursuit of excellence across the organisation. Specifically, we aim:    

  1. To maintain inclusive and equitable awards processes that result in grantee cohorts that accurately represent the diversity, in all its dimensions, of both the UK and the US.
  2. To foster a Fulbrighter community that does not shy away from the uncomfortable, hard work of working towards equity and inclusion and, indeed, celebrates its leadership on this issue.
  3. To support Fulbright-funded research, teaching and programming that advance understanding of diversity and make a meaningful contribution to addressing the global challenges of inequity and social justice.
  4. To build an organisation – staff and board – who represent the diversity of today’s UK, and who embrace a culture of respect, engagement and belonging.

As our Strategic Plan 2020-2024 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. 

We are working to increase the number of fully-funded awards available to postgraduate students on both sides of the Atlantic and have recently introduced the IIE Placement scheme for UK students which provides expert, personalised guidance to find the right academic fit for applicants and financial aid.  

The Fulbright Opportunity Fund was launched in the 2020-21 application cycle. This fund is designed to provide financial support for UK students who are selected to receive a Fulbright Award, but who cannot afford to fully fund their US study after exhausting all options to find funding. In doing so we seek to reduce the barrier that costs of a US Education can present to UK students.  

Our Global Challenges Teaching Awards – an 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 such as climate change, pandemics and racial justice.  

In 2022 we inaugurated the Fulbright Stephen Lawrence Award, a short-term opportunity funded by the UK’s National Black Police Association and aimed at furthering research into law enforcement, and community engagement, in partnership with the law schools of two Historically Black Universities, Howard and North Carolina Central University.