The University of Santo Tomas (UST), “The Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas, the Catholic University of the Philippines,” celebrated its 406th founding anniversary on April 28, 2017. Founded by the Dominicans of the Order of Preachers (OP) on April 28, 1611, UST was given the title “Royal” by King Charles III of Spain in 1785; and “Pontifical” by Pope Leo XIII in 1902 in his Quae Mari Sinico, making it the world’s second university to have the status, after the Gregorian University at the Vatican; and “Catholic University” by Pope Pius XII in 1947.
Globally renowned, UST is Asia’s oldest university, and the world’s largest Catholic university, in terms of student population (over 45,000 enrollees in the current academic year). It is ranked by World Ranking Web of Universities as well as by Quacquarelli Symonds as one of country’s top universities. Its distinguished alumni included our National hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal; patriots Emilio Jacinto and Apolinario Mabini; and Philippine Presidents Manuel L. Quezon, Sergio Osmena, Jose P. Laurel, and Diosdado P. Macapagal.
Its motto is “Veritas in Caritate” (Truth in Charity), found in Ephesians 4:15, and its three core Thomasian values are competence, compassion, and commitment. The nine directional areas of its strategic plan are: Thomasian Identity, Leadership and Governance, Teaching and Learning, Research and Innovation, Community Development and Advocacy, Student Welfare and Services, Public Presence, Resource Management, and Internationalization. It has five clusters of discipline: Science and Technology, Arts and the Humanities, Education and the Social Sciences, Medicine and Health, and Ecclesiastical Faculties – spread over 21 faculties, colleges, and institutes.
Founded in 1611 by Archbishop of Manila Fr. Miguel de Benavides, who gave his library as seed fund to build the Colegio de Nuestra Señora del Santisimo Rosario in the walled city of Intramuros, UST in 1625 was renamed Colegio de Santo Tomas, after its patron saint, St. Thomas Aquinas. In 1645, Pope Innocent X elevated it to a university, and in 1680 it was placed under royal patronage.
UST was transferred from Intramuros to its sprawling campus on España street in 1927 to accommodate its growing population. Four structures in the España campus – the Main Building, the Santissimo Rosario Central Seminary, the Arch of the Centuries, and the Grandstand (University Field) – were named National Cultural Treasures for their historical value by the National Museum in 2010. The campus was declared the National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines in 2011.
Three popes visited UST four times: Once by Pope Paul VI on November 28, 1970, by St. Pope John Paul II on February 18, 1981, and January 13, 1995, and by Pope Francis on January 18, 2015, for a meeting with the youth. St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta visited in January, 1977, and November, 1984. European royalties and foreign dignitaries have also visited the university in the last four decades.