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OPE: Office of Postsecondary Education
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International Education Programs Service

The History of Title VI and Fulbright-Hays: An Impressive International Timeline

Archived Information


Post World War II and the Emergence of Title VI Language and Area Studies Programs

The 1940's and 1950's were characterized by shifting global political, economic and military alliances, resulting in both bipolarity and a spirit of internationalism. Following World War II, an eruption of newly independent nations across the globe was accompanied by a prevailing emphasis on self-determination. At the same time, global and regional organizations emerged to address prevailing political, economic, and security concerns, leading to greater cooperation across national boundaries. In 1957, the Soviet Union announced the launch of Sputnik 1, the world's first artificial satellite, bringing global attention to the emergence of sophisticated technologies and international security threats that came to characterize the Cold War period.

Although this global geopolitical climate clearly mandated a need for international experts, particularly those trained in less commonly taught languages, they were in short supply. This spurred Federal funding to build foreign language and area studies programs at U.S. universities through Title VI of the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) of 1958. The NDEA aimed to insure trained expertise of sufficient quality and quantity to meet U.S. national security needs. According to Ralph Hines, current director of the U.S. Department of Education's International Education Programs Service, 'Prior to the passage of the act, few of the languages spoken by more than three-fourths of the world's population were being offered in the United States and not enough scholars were available to perform research in such languages or to teach them... Hindi, for example, was being studied by only twenty-three students in the United States in 1958." ("An Overview of Title VI," Changing Perspectives on International Education, 6-7.) At that time, India was the world's largest democracy and leader of the Nonaligned Movement of approximately 120 countries. Vowing to maintain independence from either side of the Cold War, the countries of the Nonaligned Movement made many joint stands against U.S. and Western European intervention in the world and enjoyed Soviet support.

To better meet the national need for international experts, the NDEA initially funded 19 centers that focused on area and international studies, then known as language and area centers but now referred to as National Resource Centers (NRCs). In addition to the NRCs, three more programs were created by the NDEA: modern foreign language fellowships (the precursor to today's Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships); international research and studies (IRS); and language institutes (LI). Together, these programs formed a comprehensive approach to foreign language and world region education that would help prepare the United States for current and future global challenges. Language and area centers aimed to expand instruction of the uncommon languages and related subjects in higher education. Modern foreign language fellowships assisted qualified advanced students in the study of uncommon languages. Research and area studies supported advanced education in language learning methodology and the creation of specialized teaching materials in both common and uncommon languages. The language institutes provided advanced language training and guidance in the use of new teaching materials and methods for elementary and secondary school teachers. According to David Wiley, director of the African Studies Center at Michigan State University, "NDEA heralded a major U.S. commitment to devoting new attention to the world beyond its borders – first to teach more of the uncommonly taught foreign languages, and then to learn in depth about the histories, societies, cultures and political systems of the key foreign powers as well as the rapidly multiplying "Third World" nations." ("Forty Years of the Title VI and Fulbright-Hays International Education Programs," Changing Perspectives on International Education, 13.) Some of these uncommonly taught and important languages included Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and Hindi-Urdu. The programs emphasized the study of the non-Western world in keeping with the original intent to strengthen expertise in underrepresented world areas.

The comprehensive and mutually supporting approach to international education inherent to the original family of Federal programs continues to characterize Title VI programs today. Although the original programs have evolved, and new programs have arisen to meet newly-identified needs and provide expanded opportunities for developing international expertise, the original intent -- "to insure trained manpower of sufficient quality and quantity to meet the national defense needs of the United States" -- remains central to the programs forty years after their inception.

The 1960s: Education, the Democratic Spirit, and Title VI and Fulbright-Hays

As a new international system evolved, Title VI programs evolved and expanded accordingly. One important arena for U.S. security as well as foreign language and area expertise during the Cold War was Latin America. Countries throughout the region experimented with various forms of government spanning the political spectrum. In the early 1960s, the Cuban Missile crisis demonstrated the instabilities of bipolarity and its threats to international security as the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war. Reflecting the growing emphasis on and importance of our Latin American neighbors, in 1961 President Kennedy enacted the Alliance for Progress, which provided funds to combat illiteracy and promote education, and to support economic integration, the growth of the market economy, technical training and Peace Corps programs, as well as scientific and higher education collaborations in Latin America. In addition, the Kennedy Administration pledged defense of nations where independence was endangered. During this period, the NRC focus also expanded to include Latin America.

Also during this time in U.S. history, Senator J. William Fulbright succeeded in persuading Congress to pass the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange, or Fulbright-Hays, Act of 1961. An Executive Order ultimately assigned Section 102 (b)(6) of this act to the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare because of the section's emphasis on creating an American international education infrastructure. Like Title VI, Fulbright-Hays was aimed at strengthening non-West European language and area expertise in the United States. These goals were achieved through focused opportunities for overseas study and research -- both essential for training language and area experts. Thus, Fulbright-Hays is viewed as the overseas counterpart to the domestic capacity-building Title VI programs. The original Fulbright-Hays legislation supported the following four initiatives: Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA); Faculty Research Abroad (FRA); Group Projects Abroad (GPA); and Foreign Curriculum Consultants (FCC). A Teachers Abroad (TA) program was integrated into FRA, then eliminated as other international education opportunities for teachers became possible through Fulbright-Hays. Except for TA and FCC, these programs continue to serve as important mechanisms for developing and maintaining international expertise among elementary, secondary, and postsecondary educators.

DDRA and FRA were first funded in 1964, followed by GPA. The DDRA program allows doctoral candidates who have already acquired language and area expertise to conduct overseas research in modern foreign languages and areas studies, to expand their knowledge and to become part of a pool of highly qualified international experts. The FRA program provides an opportunity for postsecondary faculty to enhance their language and area skills, ensuring that faculty expertise remains current about vital international issues relevant to their fields. In keeping with Fulbright-Hays' traditional focus on the less commonly studied world areas and language, proposals focusing on Western Europe are ineligible.

"There has been both a quantitative and qualitative improvement with regard to area experts, as represented by the applicants to the DDRA and FRA programs. In comparing the applications received in the 1960s to now, most are now much better prepared with regard to their foreign language skills. More opportunities to study these regions, starting at the K-12 level and extending through postgraduate faculty development, mean that more students and scholars are in the pipeline."
-- John Paul, Chief, Advanced Training & Research Team, International Education & Graduate Programs Service, U.S. Department of Education

Although the current DDRA and FRA programs remain fundamentally the same as in 1964, peer reviewers often comment that applicants are better qualified in terms of language and area competence because of the stronger area studies academic programs available at postsecondary institutions today. Title VI institutional strengthening programs and FLAS Fellowships have expanded language and area studies opportunities over the past forty years. This success in training experts illustrates the importance of maintaining the international education "pipeline" through a complementary array of programs that address the materials, curriculum, student support, and professional development needs of the international education field at every level of education.

Group Projects Abroad (GPA) was initially a "PL-480 program," authorized to use the Federal government's excess foreign currencies to set up overseas centers where Americans could go to initiate or continue study of less commonly taught languages and area studies. Initial projects included the Center for Arabic Studies Abroad in Egypt and the American Institute of Indian Studies. Currently, GPA funds U.S. colleges and universities, state departments of education and private non-profit educational organizations to design and implement short term seminars (5-6 weeks); curriculum development teams; 3-12 month groups research projects, or advanced intensive language institutes. Funded projects provide opportunities for educators at all levels to obtain critical professional development and incorporate international content into their teaching. Similar opportunities for educators are offered through Seminars Abroad (SA), which was added to the legislation during the 1960s to provide opportunities humanities, social science and language educators who are in many cases not yet specialists, to gain critical international perspectives for integration into K-16 curriculum. Together with DDRA and FRA, these Fulbright-Hays programs address important international training needs for current and prospective teachers at every stage of their career. They provide an essential overseas training component complementing the Title VI domestic internationalization agenda.

The 1970s and 1980s: Detente, Global Economics, and the Title VI Response

With the relaxation of Cold War tensions introduced by the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty in the 1970s, questions were raised within the Administration regarding the necessity of the Title VI funding. Had it served its purpose? The response to this question was an examination of the value of Title VI and the rationale for a continued Federal investment. The overt threat to Title VI funding led to an expansion of the programs' scope, signaling a shift in thinking about the national importance of international education. This dynamic -- the "specialist training" emphasis of the original Title VI legislation versus the view of Title VI as a vehicle for general educational enhancement -- continues to inform the debate about the appropriate role of Title VI. However, the evolution of the programs over time seems to indicate that there is room for both purposes within the Title VI programs.

In 1972, the Title VI NRCs -- then 106 at 59 different institutions -- moved beyond their specialist training focus to include outreach to elementary and secondary (K-12) education, four-year and community colleges, media, business and the general public. Additionally, Title VI began funding two-year seed money grants to assist postsecondary institutions in internationalizing their curricula – a precursor to today's Undergraduate International Studies & Foreign Language Program (UISFL). By reaching a great number of institutions and their students, these developments helped to expand Title VI's impact beyond institutions with traditional language and area studies strength while simultaneously strengthening the Title VI/Fulbright-Hays pipeline for recruiting and training international experts.

In 1980, detente continued while the global economy became increasingly interdependent, contributing to greater acknowledgment in the business community of the need for international expertise. At this time, the Title VI legislation was incorporated into the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965, emphasizing a greater focus on international studies' value as a part of higher education, rather than solely as support for U.S. government, military and security needs. The HEA reauthorization language reflected the increasing importance of international expertise to all aspects of modern life, including business, technology, education, media, health and other professional fields. The cadre of Title VI programs was expanded accordingly to include Business and International Education (BIE), which provided matching funds to strengthen business education and services to U.S. firms doing business overseas. Language Resource Centers (LRCs) were established to address critical needs for research, materials, and professional development opportunities supporting the nation's language educators. The Foreign Periodicals (FP) program provided funds for specialized collection development at postsecondary libraries. Legislation for an additional program, Summer Language Institutes (SLI), was authorized but never funded, because several individual and collaborative groups of NRCs were offering intensive language training institutes already. The Centers for International Business Education (CIBEs) were created under the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 to strengthen the international dimensions of business education and serve as regional and national resources to business and education communities, providing programs that help U.S. business succeed in global markets. The CIBE legislation was then transferred to Title VI. With the exception of FP, the programs established during the 1980's expansion continue today.

The End of the Cold War and the Globalization Era

In 1989 the world witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall, the disintegration of Soviet power, and the end of the Cold War. The international political system that emerged was unipolar, with the United States the only remaining superpower. Global information and economic as well as traditional security networks continued to grow and expand. Borders became extremely porous and challenges to national security came in new and less recognized forms, thus requiring expanded area and language expertise in a variety of disciplines and professional fields. The Title VI legislation as reauthorized by Congress in 1998 explicitly recognized these realities, stating:

  1. The security, stability and economic vitality of the United States in a complex global era depend upon American experts in and citizens knowledgeable about world regions, foreign languages, and international affairs, as well as upon a strong research base in these areas.
  2. Advances in communications technology and the growth of regional and global problems make knowledge of other countries and the ability to communicate in other languages more essential.
  3. Dramatic post-cold War changes in the world's geopolitical and economic landscapes are creating needs for American expertise and knowledge about a greater diversity of less commonly taught foreign languages and nations of the world.

The events of September 11, 2001, reinforced these findings and helped to emphasize, once again, the importance of international expertise for national as well as personal security and mutual international understanding. On the heels of this tragedy, Congress provided the first significant increase in Title VI and Fulbright-Hays funding since the 1960s – raising the Federal investment to a level that nevertheless remains below that of forty years ago in real dollar terms.

Times of international crises reinforce the importance of Title VI and Fulbright-Hays, their location in a domestic education agency and the partnership between the Federal government and higher education that they represent. Fulbright-Hays programs, in particular, have provided critical links to areas of great political sensitivity over time. Because educational programs were perceived in non-political terms, program participants were able to maintain Egyptian links after the Six-Day War, and continue operating in China following Tiananmen Square. Being present in those countries allowed participants to experience and integrate vital historical and cultural insights as these events occurred. The programs' location in the U.S. Department of Education allows them to operate in areas of critical strategic importance, in countries with which the United States does not necessarily maintain formal diplomatic relations.

The Title VI programs continued to expand during the 1990s to fit the new international realities. Two new programs were established through the 1992 Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization. Recognizing the value of a diverse government workforce, the Institute for International Public Policy (IIPP) was designed to increase the number of individuals from underrepresented groups in international service professions and expand international resources at minority-serving institutions; the American Overseas Research Centers (AORCs) Program grants support centers formed by consortia of U.S. institutions of higher education to facilitate students and faculty conducting vital area studies related research abroad. In the 1998 HEA reauthorization, the Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information Access (TICFIA) Program was created to promote innovative uses of new technologies for collecting and disseminating information resources from foreign sources.

  • Although fewer than 3% of the nation's higher education institutions that offer modern foreign languages have Title VI National Resource Centers, these institutions represent 23% of all undergraduate enrollment s in the LCTLs [less commonly taught languages] and 59% in the Least CTLs.
  • Title VI NRCs account for 59% of all graduate enrollments in the LCTLS, and 81% in the Least CTLs.
  • Title VI NRC institutions accounted for 45% of all Doctorates, the nation's top-level expertise, in the LCTLs from 1993-1995.
  • Title VI/Fulbright-Hays funding has supported the development of more than half of the textbooks now in use in the LCTLs.

-- Brecht, Richard D. and William P. Rivers, Language and National Security: The Federal Role in Building Language Capacity in the U.S., National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland, August 2001

Title VI and Fulbright-Hays programs work together to provide a comprehensive infrastructure supporting international education and development at the K-12 through mid-career levels. These programs build on one another, forming a comprehensive network of interrelated, educational and professional opportunities and expertise in a diversity of strategic world regions. NRCs still represent a primary mechanism for developing U.S. language and area expertise. They have proven to be a dynamic force, keeping pace with the demands of a changing world. Today's NRC includes a strong outreach component and collaboration with professional schools, greater emphases on integrated global forces and their regional impacts, as well as the less commonly taught languages of the world. As geopolitical realities have changed, so have the world areas proposed by applicants. Grant competitions since the 1990s have yielded increasing numbers of European centers, spanning the Cold War's East/West divide. "International" NRCs also cover an array of topics, from international relations and development to transnational or "Global" studies. FLAS Fellowships support graduate training programs at many NRCs. They provide opportunities for intensive study of less-commonly taught languages and world areas both domestically and abroad during the summer or the academic year. International Research and Studies continues to support critical field research and materials development projects for international educators. These three original programs are further strengthened by the more recent Title VI additions and by their Fulbright-Hays counterparts.

In today's global system, many nations formerly important because of strategic geopolitical configurations are now important in terms of trade. Challenges to national security are diverse and not always predictable. The current era is one of partnerships, networks, and relations among diverse people in multiple fields and among many nations. In this world, Fulbright-Hays and Title VI emphasize the importance of integrating area expertise with thematic knowledge and forming partnerships across programs, within and across communities. These partnerships enable the widest net to be cast to achieve the broadest possible impact.

More information about the Title VI and Fulbright-Hays grant programs, their legislation and application guidelines can be found at: http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/iegps/index.html.

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Last Modified: 01/21/2011