The Harkness Fellows Association and Transatlantic Trust
Harkness Fellowships were funded by the Harkness family foundation, the Commonwealth Fund of New York, and were set up by Edward Harkness - a major benefactor on both sides of the Atlantic - in 1925. When the programme narrowed its focus it was the second longest established cultural exchange programme in existence between the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
The purpose of the Commonwealth Fund was stated as, 'To do something for the welfare of mankind.' Its principal concerns were in the field of health but there was one major exception to this, which arose from Edward Harkness' good will towards British people, his desire to promote closer relationships with the United States and his discussions with returned Rhodes Scholars. When he learned that there was no scheme, comparable to Rhodes, for young Britons to the United States he proposed that the Fund should establish such a programme. In 1925 the Fund's Board issued the following Statement;
"...International understanding can be forwarded in no more practicable way than through the provision of international opportunities for education and travel to young men and women of character and ability. Such men and women, potentially leaders in their own country, becoming familiar through residence and education with the institutions, ccustoms and ways of thinking of the people of another country, cannot but be a force for mutual understanding and good feeling. Secondly, the importance of unity of thought and purpose on the part of the two great English speaking nations of the world lends a special value to reciprocal educational opportunities in the two countries..."
During the next 70 odd years the scope of the 'Commonwealth Fund' (later Harkness) Fellowships was to vary. The programme expanded to take in citizens of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada; it made special provision for civil servants; it expanded further to take in citizens of other European countries (and later contracted again). There were few limitations on subject matter. By 1997 nearly 1,500 people had been Fellows. In the 1990s, recognising the existence of a number of newer programmes aimed - as Harkness Fellowships had originally been - at recent graduates, the programme was redesigned to focus on outstanding early-to-mid career professionals. People working in a wide range of fields were eligible: health, education, criminal justice, urban development and so on.
In 1996 the Commonwealth Fund terminated the programme in its established form and transferred the funds to a new, more narrowly focused, 'international programme in healthcare'. The last 'traditional' type Fellows took up their fellowships in 1997 annd returned home in 1998.