By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The Irish government is to give a million punts over the next five years to increase the number of scholarships given to Irish students to study in the U.S. under the Fulbright Commission educational exchange program.
Announcing the grant, Foreign Minister Brian Cowen said he believed it was important to maintain the momentum created by President Clinton’s visit to Ireland and the close links between Ireland and the U.S.
For more than 50 years there have been educational exchanges under the program, which was named after the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright, who sponsored the legislation setting up the scholarships in 1946.
The program operates in more than 140 countries and more than 200,000 leaders in government, the media, the arts and the academic community have studied under Fulbright grants.
So far there have been 450 Irish beneficiaries of the plan, which is run by a commission of four Irish people and four U.S. citizens appointed for a two-year terms by the minister and the U.S. ambassador to Ireland.
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Grants are awarded after an interview in Dublin on the basis of academic or professional qualifications and potential, as well as the ability and willingness to share ideas and experiences.
The grants enable third-level academic staff to spend up to a year in the U.S. and allows students to undertake post-graduate study or research.