The Fulbright Program
In 1945, Senator J. William Fulbright introduced the innovative Fulbright Bill to the United States Congress and on August 1, 1946 President Harry S. Truman signed the Fulbright Act into law, establishing a program of diplomacy through educational exchange. This was a creative effort to promote mutual understanding between the United States and other countries. The Fulbright Act mandated the sale of surplus military equipment from World War II to fund “the promotion of international good will” and, as Senator Fulbright liked to say, “turn swords into plowshares”.
The United States Educational Foundation in Thailand’s initial annual operating budget from the US State Department was set at approximately four million baht, similar to that provided to New Zealand and the Netherlands.
The earliest programs included in-country scholarships for talented rural Thai students to study in American-sponsored secondary and nursing schools in Thailand, scholarships for air transportation for Thai students furthering their studies in the U.S. and scholarships for travel and maintenance for visiting American professors, teachers, and researchers coming to Thailand.
Gradually, Congressional funding for the Fulbright Program increased, allowing a wider variety of bilateral educational exchange opportunities. By 1963, the Program had expanded to the point that a new cooperation agreement was negotiated and signed by Foreign Minister of Thailand, Dr. Thanat Khoman, American Ambassador to Thailand, Mr. Kenneth T. Young, Jr. The new agreement provided for a full range of bilateral educational exchanges including programs for students, trainees, teachers, professors, and specialists in various fields.
Beginning in 1989, the Thai government agreed to provide an annual contribution to the Fulbright Program. From an initial annual sum of two million baht, Thailand’s contribution was raised to five million baht in 1997, representing 13% of the Foundation’s overall budget. In 2008, the Thai government approved an increase of its annual contribution to 15 million baht or 36% of the total budget.
Until 1963, the Fulbright Program in Thailand was operated by the United States Educational Foundation in Thailand. It was renamed the Thailand-U.S. Educational Foundation (TUSEF) after the signing of the 1963 agreement, to reflect its bi-national character and mutual interest in its activities. The Foundation is popularly referred to as “Fulbright”.