Rishi Sunak
United Kingdom to U.S., 2005
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Rishi Sunak

Fulbrighter Leads the UK’s COVID-19 Response

Fulbright produces leaders who strive to make a positive impact on their communities. In some cases, Fulbright alumni like Rishi Sunak lead through public service with the goal of finding solutions to complex challenges at the local, national, and international level. As a teenager, Rishi Sunak waited tables at an Indian restaurant before he was accepted into the University of Oxford, from which he received a Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) degree from Lincoln College. After working in finance for a few years after graduation, Sunak received a Fulbright Foreign Student award in 2005 to support his MBA at Stanford University. He noted that this “experience changed my life.”

After his Fulbright, Sunak returned to the UK and worked in finance and . was later elected as a Member of Parliament in 2015. He served from July 2019 to February 2020 as Chief Secretary to the Treasury of the United Kingdom. And, in February 2020, his rapid rise in government continued as he was named Chancellor of the Exchequer. In his first month on this role, he was tasked with responsibility of developing a Coronavirus relief package for the country. Sunak continues to work to support people and businesses deeply affected by the pandemic.

Sunak prepared several economic and financial packages to support the unemployed, self-employed, and struggling businesses across the United Kingdom. To minimize layoffs, the grant program he led provided employers an opportunity to fund 80 percent of furloughed employees’ wages.

When presenting his first package to the Parliament of the United Kingdom he stated, “We are doing everything we can to keep this country and our people healthy and financially secure. We will do right by you and your family.” In this spirit, Sunak has worked to develop more measures to support small businesses with the introduction of Bounce Back Loans which have the goal of protecting existing jobs, supporting viable businesses, and protecting the incomes of the most vulnerable. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has noted that the United Kingdom’s approach to the pandemic is one of the most comprehensive of any country in the world.