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Institute of International Education

Program, Organizational Structure, History and Development

The Institute of International Education (IIE) is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. Its mission is to foster international understanding by opening minds to the world. It does this by assisting college and university students to study abroad; advising institutions of higher education on ways to internationalize their student body, faculty, and curriculum; fostering sustainable development through training programs in energy, the environment, enterprise management, and leadership development; and partnering with corporations, foundations, and governments in developing people's ability to think and work on a global basis.


Sponsors of IIE's more than 250 programs include government departments and agencies in industrialized and developing countries, the World Bank, major philanthropic foundations, public corporations, and individuals. Nearly 4,000 men and women from the United States and 14,000 people from 175 countries study, conduct research, receive practical training, or provide technical assistance through these programs each year. IIE has administered the Fulbright Program on behalf of the U.S. Department of State since its inception in 1946, and, since 1948, has also conducted the annual Open Doors census on international student mobility to and from the United States.

IIE's programs are managed by professional staff with expertise in fields such as higher education and scholarship administration, energy and the environment, business and public administration, human rights, economic development, and the arts. The institute's program staff serve in four departments:

  • Exchange Programs and Regional Services. This department manages the U.S. and Foreign Fulbright Student Programs and the International Visitor Program, both funded by the U.S. Department of State, as well as other privately funded academic and professional exchange programs. With 140 staff in New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, Denver, Houston, and San Francisco, this department conducts extensive outreach to local communities throughout the United States.
  • Center for Global Development (CGD). The CGD administers capacity-building programs serving participants from developing countries. CGD professional exchange programs have allowed participants to gain industry expertise and learn leadership and technical skills in national energy and environmental program implementation, health care, and civil society development. With a staff of more than 100 people in sixteen countries, CGD is IIE's primary mechanism for initiating multisector development assistance contracts worldwide.
  • Educational and Corporate Services. This department administers scholarship programs and leadership development and skills training programs for midcareer professionals. Educational Services staff also conduct policy and statistical research on international academic mobility and provide educational advising and testing services in the institute's international offices. The department has 100 staff members in nine offices around the world.
  • Council for the International Exchange of Scholars (CIES). CIES was founded in 1947 to administer the Fulbright Scholar Program and has grown to house other international scholarly exchange initiatives. In 1997 CIES became a department of IIE, based in Washington D.C. More than 1,600 U.S. academics and international scholars are served by CIES programs annually. The day-to-day work of the department is carried out by more than forty-five program officers and staff.

Organizational Structure

IIE has a staff of more than 475 professionals and relies on the services of more than 6,000 volunteers who serve on regional advisory boards, scholarship screening and selection panels, and program committees. In addition to its headquarters in New York City, IIE has offices in Chicago, Denver, Houston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. International offices are located in Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, and Vietnam.

Staff members in U.S. offices administer IIE-related programs, mobilize community support for international exchange, provide information and counseling to individuals and institutions, and maintain contact with grantees and the institutions they attend.

Personnel in the international offices assist students and scholars wishing to study or conduct research in the United States; administer U.S. admissions tests for international applicants; report on educational systems, institutions, and developments; cooperate with other private and government agencies abroad to facilitate international exchange; and provide technical assistance and training in selected development fields. The institute is governed by an international board of trustees composed of corporate executives, diplomats, college and university presidents, and artistic and civic leaders.

IIE disburses more than $150 million annually on programs and services. Most funds provide direct support to sponsored students and professionals. These funds also materially assist the universities and research and training institutions at which IIE grantees study and work.

History and Development

Until the twentieth century there were no programs for study abroad in American higher education. The U.S. Bureau of Education began collecting data on foreign students in 1904, and published a guidebook in 1915. The YMCA formed a Committee on Friendly Relations Among Foreign Students in 1911, and three bilateral exchange programs came into existence during this time: the Rhodes Trust, the American-Scandinavian Foundation, and the China Foundation for the Promotion of Education and Culture. IIE was established in 1919 as the first independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting all aspects of educational exchange on a global basis. The founders were Elihu Root, the Nobel Prize—winning secretary of state; Nicholas Murray Butler, then president of Columbia University and subsequently a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize; and Dr. Stephen Duggan, a professor at the City College of New York. These men were deeply committed internationalists in an age when this was not popular. They believed that academic travel abroad would promote mutual understanding and closer cultural relations between Americans and leaders of other countries. Dr. Duggan became the first director, and the institute's first programs were supported by grants from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The institute lobbied for the creation of non-immigrant student visas in 1921 and designed a new application to assist American consular officials to process visa requests. Its first student exchange was negotiated in 1922 with five American and five Czechoslovakian students. In 1925 the institute created a junior year abroad program for American undergraduates. In 1933 it established the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced German Scholars, under the institute's then assistant director, Edward R. Murrow. Its activities saved more than 300 European scholars from the Holocaust. In 1941, the U.S. State Department called upon IIE to administer the country's first nationally sponsored educational exchange scholarships with Latin America under the Buenos Aires Cultural Convention Program. Additional work for the U.S. government necessitated the institute's opening an office in Washington, D.C., in 1943. In 1948, the State Department appointed the institute to screen, place, and supervise student exchange under the Fulbright program.

As African nations emerged from colonial rule in the 1950s, IIE created new U.S. scholarship opportunities for African students. In 1952 the Educational Associates program was established by the institute, providing services for U.S. colleges and universities. In the late 1970s IIE designed and implemented the U.S. government's Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship program for midcareer professionals from developing nations, as well as creating the South African Education Program to help prepare black South Africans for leadership in a post-apartheid future. The institute also assumed responsibility for a portion of the U.S. government's International Visitor Program and began to run the ITT Corporation's International Fellowship Program, which for seventeen years was an exemplary model of corporate involvement in international educational exchange. In the 1980's, the institute began managing short-term, hands-on professional development projects and internships for sponsors such as USAID, expanding its service for scientific and technical development, and establishing a division to undertake energy training programs. IIE has created innovative programs in journalism and human rights, and opened new offices in Jakarta, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, and Cairo.

Taking advantage of improving relations with Communist governments, IIE developed the U.S.-USSR Student Exchange Program in cooperation with the Soviet State Committee for Public Education and extended its educational advising services in the People's Republic of China.

In the 1990s IIE initiated programs for leaders, managers, professors, and students in formerly Communist countries to enable them to learn about market economics and democratic institutions. It also developed collaborative programs with Japan and Southeast Asian nations to deepen mutual understanding and address issues of common concern. In response to the Balkan conflicts and the Asian currency crisis, IIE designed and implemented Balkan-Help and Asia-Help emergency assistance funds to enable students from these regions to stay in the United States to complete their degrees.

In 2000 the Ford Foundation turned to the institute to help administer the single largest program in the foundation's history–The International Fellowships Program. This program recruits candidates that lack systematic access to higher education from social groups and communities around the world. These individuals are provided with full scholarships for graduate education in the hope that they will become leaders in their respective fields, furthering social justice and economic development in their own countries.

The institute also helped to develop, and now administers, the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program on behalf of the State Department. This program provides awards for undergraduate study abroad for U.S. students who are receiving federal need-based financial aid under Pell Grants, Federal Work-Study, Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans, and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants.


ALTBACH, PHILIP G., and PETERSON, PATTI MCGILL., eds. 1999. Higher Education in the Twenty-First Century: Global Challenge and National Response. New York: Institute of International Education.

CHANDLER, ALICE. 1999. Paying the Bill for International Education: Programs, Partners, and Possibilities at the Millennium. Washington, DC: NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

DAVIS, TODD M. 2000. Open Doors: Report on International Educational Exchange. New York: Institute of International Education.

HALPERN, STEPHEN MARK. 1969. The Institute of International Education: A History. New York: Columbia University Press.

HARVEY, THOMAS. 2001. Opening Minds to the World: 2000 Annual Report. New York: Institute of International Education.

INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION. 1997. Towards Transnational Competence-Rethinking International Education: A U.S.-Japan Case Study. New York: Institute of International Education.

TAYLOR, MARY LOUISE. 1994. Investing in People Linking Nations: The First Seventy-Five Years of the Institute of International Education. New York: Institute of International Education.




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