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History

THE UNIVERSITY OF SANTO TOMAS IS THE OLDEST EXISTING UNIVERSITY in Asia.


In terms of student population, it is the largest Catholic university in the world in a single
campus. The institution was established through the initiative of Bishop Miguel de Benavides,
O.P., the third Archbishop of Manila. On July 24, 1605, he bequeathed the amount of P1,500 and
his personal library for the establishment of a “seminary-college” to prepare young men for the
priesthood. Those funds, and his personal library, became the nucleus for the start of UST and its
library.

The founding of the University of Santo Tomas followed on April 28, 1611. The original campus
was located in Intramuros, the Walled City of Manila. UST was first called Colegio de Nuestra
Señora del Santisimo Rosario, and later renamed Colegio de Santo Tomas, in memory of the
foremost Dominican Theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas.

On July 29, 1619 the Colegio was authorized to confer academic degrees in theology and
philosophy. By November 20, 1645, Pope Innocent X elevated the college to a university. In
1680, it was subsequently placed under the royal patronage of the Spanish monarchy. In 1681,
Pope Innocent XI declared it a Public University of General Studies allowing it to confer other
degrees. In 1734 Pope Clement XII authorized the University to confer degrees in all existing
faculties as well as all others that might be introduced in the future. The Pope also approved the
curriculum in the entire field of jurisprudence.

During the British invasion of Manila in 1762, the University raised four companies of students
and professors numbering 400 men each. These saw action in battles against the British until
1764.

The expulsion of the Society of Jesus from the Philippines in 1768 left the University of Santo
Tomas as the only institution of higher learning in the islands.
In 1785 in recognition of the role of the students and faculty in resisting the British, King Charles
III conferred the title of “loyal” to the university and formally granted it the status of a royal
university.

On May 20, 1865, a royal order from Queen Isabella II gave the University the power to direct
and supervise all the schools in the Philippines and the Rector of the University became the ex-
officio head of the secondary and higher education in the Philippines. All diplomas issued by
other schools were approved by the Rector of the University and examinations leading to the
issuance of such diplomas were supervised by the Dominican professors of UST.

On September 17, 1902, Pope Leo XIII made the University of Santo Tomas a “Pontifical
University”, and by 1947, Pope Pius XII bestowed upon it the title of “The Catholic University
of the Philippines”. The University of Santo Tomas is the second university in the world after the
Gregorian University in Vatican to be granted the formal title of Pontifical University. The
Gregorian University was allowed to assume this title in 1873.

The continuing increase in enrolment prompted the administration, in 1927 to transfer the
university campus from Intramuros to its present site in Sampaloc district, which covers a total of
21.5 hectares. The Intramuros campus continued to operate until its destruction during the
Second World War.

Since its establishment in 1611, the university academic life was disrupted only twice: once,
from 1898 to 1899, during the second phase of the Philippine Revolution and the Filipino-
American War, and for the second time, from 1942 to 1945, when the Japanese Occupation
Forces during the Second World War converted the UST campus into an internment camp where
around 2,500 allied civilians were detained. Buildings such as the Main Building, the
Gymnasium and an annex building behind the Main Building called the Domestic Arts building
were used as living quarters. The internees were liberated by U.S. forces on February 3, 1945.

Throughout its almost 400 years of existence, The University has become the alma mater of four
Filipino heroes who shaped the nation’s destiny like Jose Rizal, Emilio Jacinto, Marcelo H. del
Pilar, Apolinario Mabini; Philippine Presidents such as Manuel Luis Quezon, Sergio Osmeña,
Jose P. Laurel and Diosdado Macapagal; various Chief Justices of the Supreme Court, senators,
congressmen, scientist, architects, engineers and writers, all outstanding in their chosen
professions. It was visited by two popes, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, and various heads
of states and foreign dignitaries.

As it prepares for its 400th year by 2011, UST plans to establish campuses outside España
Boulevard, Manila. A campus will rise in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, and another is forthcoming in
General Santos City. Through these campuses, UST commits to continue to provide Filipinos
with the characteristically high quality of Catholic education.