News & Events

30 January 2023

Sara Grote Cerrell, Chair of the US-UK Fulbright Commission, looks back across the decades and forward to the opportunities ahead

2023 marks 75 years since the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom signed a treaty creating the US-UK Fulbright Commission, one of the first bilateral programmes of its kind.

Reflecting on our 75-year history, what stands out is not that we are the only educational exchange programme spanning generations, from 17-year-old students to septuagenarian emeriti professors; or that we are the single US-UK scholarship running both ways across the Atlantic; or even that we are part of the global Fulbright Programme, the largest international education exchange endeavour in the world. But rather, what rises above all else, is the impact our Fulbrighters and Fulbright partners have had on the world.

This includes our 25,000+ alumni, who have gone on to become prime ministers and business professionals, authors and composers, and even Nobel laureates: individuals like Joseph Stiglitz, whose Fulbright took him to Cambridge in 1965, where he began his seminal research on the economics of inequality. It also includes institutions, from our 60 university partners, representing the most diverse array of higher education institutions of any US-UK scholarship programme, to the many organisations supporting our work in other ways. These are organisations like the UK National Black Police Association, sponsor of our Fulbright Stephen Lawrence Award, a research fellowship on community, race and policing, hosted by the law schools of three Historically Black Universities: Howard University, North Carolina Central University and the University of the District of Colombia.   

The Fulbright awards and all the programmes we sponsor, while about academic excellence at their core, are also about civic engagement and about bringing together the diverse perspectives of our two countries to address our shared challenges. It’s about the belief in continual learning and in the power of education to advance knowledge and change lives. It’s these ideals that that led to the establishment of the Fulbright Program 75 years ago, at the conclusion of WWII, and still guide our work today.  

On both sides of the Atlantic, individuals and institutions have played a leading role in solving some of the world’s most pressing issues, and they will continue to do so far into the future. Our nations have once again arrived at a pivotal moment in history, and we must remember that the opportunities are as great as the threats. 

As we look forward to the next 75 years and the special role of the US-UK Fulbright programme in the transatlantic partnership (a role highlighted earlier this month by the US Secretary of State at a press conference with the UK Foreign Secretary), our aim is to make Fulbright scholarships accessible to all talented individuals, irrespective of their backgrounds and financial circumstances, providing more fully funded awards across the education spectrum. We also will continue to do our part, together with our partners, in addressing global challenges by awarding grants that interrogate the key concerns of our time, including through our newly created awards promoting excellence and innovation in virtual teaching on such issues as climate, racial justice and disinformation.  

Partnership is key to how we operate and how we realise the change we want to see in the world. Our vision is a world with no obstacles to learning, understanding and collaboration, and we won’t stop until we get there. Getting there is a journey we are on together, and as chair of the US-UK Fulbright Commission, I want to thank you for joining us on that journey over the last 75 years, and I invite you to help us shape the next 75.  

Sara Grote Cerrell, Chair, US-UK Fulbright Commission