Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, as amended, Pub. L. No. 87-256, codified at 22 U.S.C. §2451 et seq. (also known as the "Fulbright-Hays Act").


The Act authorizes U.S. exchange programs as a public diplomacy tool. Section 101 of the Act[1] states the Act's four-fold purpose:

  • to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges;
  • to strengthen the ties which unite us with other nations by demonstrating the educational and cultural interests, developments, and achievements of the people of the United States and other nations, and the contributions being made toward a peaceful and more fruitful life for people throughout the world;
  • to promote international cooperation for educational and cultural advancement; and
  • to assist in the development of friendly, sympathetic, and peaceful relations between the United States and the other countries of the world.

Under Section 102[2], the President is authorized to take action when he considers that certain steps would strengthen international cooperation. Among the activities authorized by this Act are the following:

  • providing grants, contracts, or otherwise for educational and cultural exchanges for U.S. citizens and citizens of other countries;
  • providing for participation in international fairs and expositions abroad;
  • providing for the interchange of books, periodicals, and government publications,

and the reproduction and translations of such material;

  • providing for the interchange of technical and scientific material and equipment, and establishing and operating centers for cultural and technical interchanges;
  • assisting in the establishment, expansion, maintenance, and operation of schools and institutions of learning abroad, and fostering American studies in foreign countries;
  • promoting foreign language and area studies training for Americans;
  • providing of U.S. representation at international nongovernmental educational, scientific, and technical meetings; and
  • promoting respect for and guarantees of religious freedom abroad and by interchanges and visits between the United States and other nations of religious leaders, scholars, and religious and legal experts in the field of religious freedom.

Section 103[3] authorizes the President to enter into international agreements with foreign governments and international organizations to advance the purposes of this Act, and to provide for equitable participation and support for the implementation of these agreements. Section 104[4] authorizes the President to delegate his authorities to other officers of the government as he determines to be appropriate. The Department of State and USAID are responsible for the vast majority of U.S. sponsored exchanges. However, several other federal agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, also administer exchange programs under this Presidential delegation.

Section 112 of this Act[5] establishes a Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in the Department of State to be responsible for managing, coordinating, and overseeing various programs and exchanges, including the J. William Fulbright Exchange Program, the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program, the International Visitors Program, the American Cultural Centers and Libraries abroad, and several others.


  1. 22 U.S.C. §2451.
  2. 22 U.S.C. §2452
  3. 22 U.S.C. §2453.
  4. 22 U.S.C. §2454.
  5. 22 U.S.C. §2460.


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