New funding increase, access and diversity: statement by the Executive Director

The US-UK Fulbright Commission is deeply grateful to the Department for Education for its commitment to a significant increase in its annual grant. Announced last week by the Minister for Universities, Sam Gyimah at an event to mark our 70th anniversary, this additional £400,000 will largely be spent on increasing the opportunities for bright young British students from all backgrounds to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities to study at post-graduate level at world-class universities in the US.

Contrary to a couple of press articles last week, the Commission has put in place a robust process to dispel outdated ideas that this is an elite programme, as well as ensuring that our selection process is inclusive, and our cohorts diverse. None of this works unless we get applicants from a diverse pool, so our outreach has been focussed on those universities in parts of the UK from where we get fewer applicants. In addition, students need to see relatable role models in order to apply, so considerable effort has gone into collecting stories from a variety of our Fulbrighters who come from many different backgrounds.

We work hard to promote US higher education to a wide selection of people in the UK. As the EducationUSA advising team for the UK, we help thousands of British people each year explore and apply for US study, both at the graduate and undergraduate level. Our services are freely available, and we are able to signpost funding opportunities like the Fulbright awards to those interested in US study.

In addition, the Sutton Trust US undergraduate programme which we administer, targets the most disadvantaged state school pupils in the UK, promoting US study to the demographic we are also aiming to reach for our Fulbright awards. Those who go through a Sutton Trust social mobility summer programme either in the US or the UK see very clearly that a Fulbright post-graduate award is for people like them.

Our Fulbright selection processes are producing results which show that we recruit students from a wide range of backgrounds.   

Statistics from our UK Post-Graduate Fulbright awards 2018-19 cohort include:

  • Out of a total of 18, 10 were educated in state or grammar schools, 6 were at independent or fee-paying schools and 2 were educated outside the UK.
  • 4 were the first in their family to go to university
  • Our cohort did their undergraduate degrees at 13 different UK universities, and the University of Nottingham was the top Fulbright producing university.
  • 22% of our cohort are Scottish or live in Scotland
  • 22% of our cohort are non-white.

We believe that, with our enhanced UK Government funding (taking their total annual grant to the Commission to £1m), we can do even better in ensuring that Fulbright scholarships are opened up to an even wider group of exceptional young people. The Commission is committed to this, is carefully monitoring the results, and will regularly publish information on the progress we are making.