Fulbright scholarships are part of the special relations between the United States and the United Kingdom. Elaine Carlton reports on the latest deals to entice applicants
ALMOST 50 years after the creation of the Fulbright scholarships the commission has embarked on an ambitious programme targeting students heading for a career in the business world.
After consultation with more than 100 chairmen and senior executives the commission, conceived by United States senator J. William Fulbright in 1945, decided to embrace the business world with the creation of new "co-branded" awards.
With the growth in the commercial relationship between Britain and the US, the commission is expanding its programme which gives students and scholars the chance to study at leading universities in the US and Britain.
Plans to raise the number of awards are now focusing on those interested in studying for MBAs. They are sponsored by businesses such as Citibank or BAT and the award carries the sponsor's name.
James Moore, executive director of the commission in London, said: "We believe the relationship between the US and Britain is growing increasingly commercial so we have decided to aim our new awards at people who are particularly interested in careers in business or industry. We are going to use our ability to attract extremely bright people to find those who also have strong leadership skills and an interest in business."
The new scheme began last year and so far ten British students have benefited. Four went to the US a year ago and six have arrived this month to start their MBAs. A number of Americans are also studying in Britain as a result of "co-branded" awards. The scheme is so far relatively small compared to the entire Fulbright programme which this year has sent 31 British people to study in the US but the organisers are planning to increase the number of corporate scholarships to 35 in the next few years.
Mr Moore said: "We do not have to go to businesses with a begging bowl. We see this as a mutually beneficial scheme."
"Companies see sponsorship as a means to securing top-flight students. They want to project their image into universities and they see it as a quick way of shortlisting the best students.
"In the case of John Cleese (who sponsors a scriptwriting award), he sees it as a way of supporting the film industry."
Each student receiving a scholarship is given Pounds 15,000 to cover the cost of living but their university fees are not covered. Often, however, the universities waive the fees for Fulbrighters, said Mr Moore.
The students are not given any money to cover the cost of the second year of their MBA as they are expected - as commercially minded people - to raise this money themselves.
Students do not have any obligation to the company which sponsors them but Fulbright encourages a close relationship between the pair.
They often visit the company's sites and factories in the US and the company often arranges for the student to work there during the summer vacation. The company can also help the student by providing statistics and case studies for his or her optional project.
Candidates are expected to have a good academic record and many other skills besides.
This year, 42 candidates were considered to have met the tough standards required for sponsorship yet there were only 31 awards.
Those who applied included election campaign managers from both parties, MPs, aircraft engineers and the president of the Oxford Union. The awards were split fairly equally between men and women.
Fulbright is already promising that 25 "co-branded" awards will be available for 1998 and the organisers are approaching firms including McKinsey management consultants and Marks & Spencer in order to increase the awards available.
Said Mr Moore: "We have advertised through careers services and on the web. Over 300 candidates applied last year and we interviewed 81. We are not desperate for more applicants but we are always keen to find more good ones."