National academy

A national academy is an organizational body, usually operating with state financial support and approval, that co-ordinates scholarly research activities and standards for academic disciplines, most frequently in the sciences but also the humanities. Typically the country's learned societies in individual disciplines will liaise with or be co-ordinated by the national academy. National academies play an important organizational role in academic exchanges and collaborations between countries.

The extent of official recognition of national academies varies between countries. In some cases they are explicitly or de facto an arm of government; in others, as in the United Kingdom, they are voluntary, non-profit bodies with which government has agreed to negotiate, and which may receive government financial support while retaining substantial independence. In the countries of the former Soviet Union, and in the People's Republic of China, the national academies have considerable power over policy and personnel in their areas. There is however a growing consensus among international federations of learned academies that bona fide national (or learned) academies need to adhere to certain criteria:

  • The fellowship is elected, on the basis of excellence, by existing fellows (members)
  • The number of fellows is restricted either to a total number or to a rate of accretion
  • The governance of the academy is democratic and “bottom up”. The fellowship is the ultimate source of the academy’s authority
  • The academy is independent of government, industry and professional associations. Most, if not all, academies derive some financial support from some or all of these other organizations but this support needs to be given in a manner that does not compromise the academy’s independence.

Different models[edit]

In some countries, a single academy covers all disciplines; an example is France. In others, there are several academies, which work together more or less closely; for example, Australia. In many states they are organized in Academies of Science.

Academy Standards & Recognitions[edit]

Not all academy are of the same prestige and standards. Some academy are relatively new while others are less reputable and less recognized by others. The USA national academy of sciences and engineering comprises the nation's top scientists and engineers. The UK Royal Society of London, for example, has Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein as its early members. The movers and shakers of science and technology are mostly elected in the USA and UK academies, with these academies having the most number of Nobel Prize winners.

Academies formed in developing and under-developing countries are smaller and are less recognized but are formed to set its own standards (therefore different and lower than that of USA and UK) and elected members from its own citizens.

Name Country Remarks Patron / Leader
National Academy of Sciences USA founded in 1863 and widely regarded as top science academy in the world President of United States
National Academy of Engineering USA founded in 1964 and widely regarded as top engineering academy in the world President of United States
Royal Academy of Engineering UK founded in 1976 and widely regarded as top engineering academy in the world Prince Philip (husband of Queen Elizabeth II)
Royal Society of London UK founded in 1660 and widely regarded as top science academy in the world Kings Charles II

Recently, China has caught up with USA and UK with its own academy members with top world standards. Several members[1][2] of USA and UK academy are now also foreign members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chinese Academy of Engineering. The recognition given to the Chinese Academy was not present in the 1900s and 2000s. The last decade was considered phenomena for China.


Within most countries, the unqualified phrase "National Academy" will normally refer to that country's academy. For example, within the United States, the plural phrase "National Academies" is widely understood to refer to the U.S. National Academies.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Five NAE members elected to Chinese Academy of Engineering". NAE Website. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  2. ^ "Academy President elected to Chinese Academy of Engineering". Royal Academy of Engineering. 22 December 2017. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  3. ^ Hoare, James E. (2012). "Academy of Sciences". Historical Dictionary of Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Lanham: Scarecrow Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-8108-7987-4.