Brief History of HEA-Title VI and Fullbright Hays

In 1958, just after the Soviet launch of Sputnik and at the height of the Cold War, Congress created NDEA–Title VI (later Title VI of the Higher Education Act) out of a sense of crisis about U.S. lack of understanding of foreign nations, their cultures, and their languages. Fulbright-Hays was created three years later, in 1961, providing support for a complementary overseas dimension to Title VI campus programs. The new programs heralded a major U.S. commitment to devoting new attention to the world beyond its borders.

The world’s geopolitical climate during the Cold War era mandated a need for international experts, especially those trained in less commonly taught languages, but they were in short supply. Few of the languages spoken by more than three-fourths of the world’s population were being offered in the United States at that time, and not enough scholars were available to teach these languages or perform research in them. The new programs set out to teach more of these languages, as well as to learn in depth about the histories, societies, cultures, and political systems of the key foreign powers. The goal was to produce expert faculty in our colleges and universities, as well as government experts for defense and foreign policy needs.

As the decades passed and the world’s geopolitical and economic systems changed, the programs grew and expanded to meet growing national needs. Today, program goals range broadly from producing the nation’s high-level expertise for national security, global economic competitiveness, and education, to promoting mutual understanding, respect, and cooperation across cultures through international education of American citizens. Title VI and Fulbright-Hays are designed to serve broad societal and educational needs, as well as government needs.

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