IIE founders Nicholas Murray Butler, Elihu Root, and Stephen Duggan, Sr.

A Brief History of IIE

IIE was established in 1919 in the aftermath of World War I by Nobel Peace Prize winners Nicholas Murray Butler, President of Columbia University, and Elihu Root, former Secretary of State, and by Stephen Duggan, Sr., Professor of Political Science at the College of the City of New York and IIE's first President. They believed that we could not achieve lasting peace without greater understanding between nations—and that international educational exchange formed the strongest basis for fostering such understanding.

The Institute was created to catalyze educational exchange. It met the need for a central point of contact and source of information for both U.S. higher education and foreign nations interested in developing educational ties with the United States.


1920s

IIE History 1920s

IIE began organized student, faculty and teacher exchanges with several European governments. IIE President Stephen Duggan persuaded the U.S. government to create a new category of nonimmigrant student visas, bypassing post-war quotas set by the Immigration Act of 1921. The Institute also published the first reference guides to international study and helped facilitate a supportive climate for international education on campuses by creating of a network of International Relations clubs.

See 1920s Timeline.


1930s

IIE History 1930s

The Institute established the Emergency Committee to Aid Displaced German Scholars, an initiative that would come to aid such distinguished individuals as Martin Buber, Paul Tillich and Jacques Maritain and assist others fleeing from Spanish and Italian fascism as well. Edward R. Murrow began his career as IIE's Assistant Director at this time, helping to find lectureships for hundreds of European refugee scholars. In the 1930s, IIE began expanding its activities beyond Europe, opening the first exchanges with the Soviet Union and Latin America.

See 1930s Timeline.


1940s

IIE History 1940s

IIE began cooperating with the predecessor agencies of the U.S. Department of State with programs designed to counter the Axis propaganda threat including large-scale exchanges with Latin America. After World War II, the Institute helped establish what is now NAFSA: Association of International Educators and Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). IIE also arranged for more than 4,000 U.S. students to study and work on reconstruction projects at European universities devastated by the war.

In 1946, the U.S. Department of State invited IIE to administer the graduate student component and CIES to administer the faculty component of the Fulbright Program—IIE's largest program to date.

See 1940s Timeline.


1950s

IIE History 1950s The Institute deepened its involvement in the developing world, managing programs focused on public administration, food research, family planning and other development-related fields for countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. IIE aided Hungarian refugee students, arranging scholarships for more than 700 freedom fighters to study in the United States. The flow of foreign students to the United States nearly doubled during this decade, and IIE established a network of U.S. offices to serve the growing number of students under its supervision and promote international education on campuses and in communities nationwide. IIE began producing Open Doors, an annual statistical analysis of the foreign student population in the United States. In the 1950s, the Fulbright program also experienced considerable expansion.

See 1950s Timeline.


1960s

IIE History 1960s The Institute established overseas offices in Asia, Africa and Latin America to meet growing needs for information about U.S. higher education. Donor-supported Educational Services were likewise expanded to meet the increasing demand for information on international education. IIE continued to expand fellowship services for human resource development in developing countries in belief that education is key to the development process.

See 1960s Timeline.


1970s

IIE History 1970s

IIE undertook administration of the Venezuelan Government's "Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho" Scholarship Program which assisted nearly 4,000 promising young Venezuelans, many from disadvantaged backgrounds, to study in the United States in fields related to national development. IIE also assumed responsibility for a portion of the USIA International Visitor Program. The Institute began administering the ITT International Fellowship Program which served as an exemplary model of corporate involvement in international educational exchange for 17 years.

In 1978–79, IIE joined the White House and USIA to develop the innovative Hubert H. Humphrey North-South Fellowships, which brings mid-career professionals in public service fields from developing countries and East Central Europe to the U.S. for a year of academic study and practical professional experience. The end of the decade also saw the beginnings of the South African Education Program, designed to prepare black South Africans for a post-apartheid future.

See 1970s Timeline.


1980s

IIE History 1980s

The South African Education Program continued to develop—a unique cooperative effort of U.S. foundations, corporations, universities and USAID to provide hundreds of black South Africans with the opportunity to study in the United States and gain leadership positions back home after apartheid.

The Institute began managing short-term, hands-on professional development projects and internships, largely through the administration of projects for USAID, and further extended its reach into Africa and Southeast Asia by opening offices in Jakarta, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Cairo. Innovative programs in journalism and human rights were added to the IIE roster. Taking advantage of improving relations with Communist governments, IIE developed the U.S.-U.S.S.R. 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.

The International Education Information Center opened at IIE’s New York headquarters. IIE designed enrichment programs to introduce foreign students to American society and culture, and also expanded services for scientific and technical development by establishing the Department of Science and Technology.

See 1980s Timeline.


1990s

IIE History 1990s

In the 1990s, IIE established new offices in Budapest and Hanoi, extending IIE’s already robust global presence, reach and capabilities. The new offices focused on supporting and strengthening internationalization of universities, developing and managing scholarship and study abroad programs, and supporting English language teaching and testing.

The Fulbright Student Program continued to grow and The Council for International Exchange of Scholars joined IIE in 1997, continuing the close partnership with the U.S. Department of State to expand the Fulbright Program’s outstanding record of achievement. IIE provided innovative performance-based, results-oriented training to support USAID's activities in Egypt, ranging from restructuring the country's national electric utility in partnership with the Ministry of Electricity and Energy, to improving maternal and child health.

See 1990s Timeline.


2000s

IIE History 2000s and Beyond

In 2001, The Ford Foundation launched the Ford International Fellowships Program to broaden access to higher education for marginalized individuals from over 21 countries. That same year, the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program was initiated to diversify the kinds of students who study abroad and the countries and regions where they go. Specifically, the Gilman Scholarship Program offers scholarships for students who have been traditionally underrepresented in education abroad. Also in 2001, IIE created the Andrew Heiskell Awards For Innovation in International Education to promote and honor the most outstanding initiatives being conducted in international higher education by IIENetwork member universities and colleges.

In 2002, several IIE Trustees and other committed donors endowed the Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF) to provide safe haven and support to scholars at risk of being silenced, arrested or persecuted for their work. In 2006, when security concerns in Iraq reached unprecedented levels, SRF began receiving hundreds of requests from threatened Iraqi scholars and in response launched the Iraq Scholar Rescue Project.

In 2008, IIE President Allan Goodman led the Institute’s first U.S. higher education delegation. Eleven delegates representing seven U.S. colleges and universities traveled in Southeast Asia to enhance and expand linkages with institutions in Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. IIE has since led U.S. higher education delegations to countries such as Brazil, China, Indonesia, India, Myanmar, and Russia with the aim of expanding educational ties with the United States.

In 2009, IIE celebrated its 90th anniversary and lasting commitment to developing leaders, educating global citizens and advancing social justice. 2009 also marked the 60th anniversary of the annualOpen Doors report.

See 2000s Timeline.


2010s and Beyond

IIE's Higher Education Readiness Program (HER)

In the 2010s, the Institute established the IIE Centers of Excellence to build higher education capacity, develop global academic partnerships, foster entrepreneurship and innovation, empower women through leadership and conduct relevant research and policy analysis. Under the Center for Women’s Leadership Initiatives, the IIE Higher Education Readiness (HER) Program began in Ethiopia in 2012 to provide young women in secondary school from underserved communities with a pathway to university.

In 2010, IIE launched the Emergency Student Fund (ESF), which has provided over $1 million in emergency grants to nearly 400 students from Japan, Haiti, Iran, Libya, Thailand and Syria whose home sources of financial support were impacted by crisis or natural disaster. Following its 10th anniversary, the IIE Scholar Rescue Fund made a Fellowship grant to its 500th scholar. In its first 10 years, SRF helped scholars from 48 countries around the world, such as Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, and Sudan, to find safe haven and receive fellowship support at 270 host institutions in 40 countries. In 2011, IIE hosted the first in a series of conferences in Iraq designed to engage key stakeholders in advancing higher education discussions and development efforts in Iraq.

In 2012, IIE began administering the Government of Brazil’s Scientific Mobility Program, which provides scholarships to Brazilian undergraduate students primarily in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. The program is part of the Brazilian government's larger initiative to grant 100,000 scholarships for the best students from Brazil to study abroad at the world’s best universities.

See 2010s Timeline.

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An independent nonprofit founded in 1919, IIE is among the world's largest and most experienced international education and training organizations. We are committed to delivering program excellence to a diverse range of participants, sponsors, and donors.

Media Contacts

Sharon Witherell
Director, Public Affairs
Tel: +1 212.984.5380
E-mail: switherell@iie.org