Everyday History
The pontifical University of Santo Tomas in Intramuros in 1902.
Daily History Philippine History Philippine Universities

UST becomes a pontifical university: Sept. 17, 1902

On this day in 1902, the University of Santo Tomas (UST), Asia’s oldest extant university, became a pontifical university by virtue of a papal bull issued by Pope Leo XIII.

Bishop Miguel de Benavidez, a member of the Dominican Order, established UST on April 28, 1611 in Intramuros, Manila as the Colegio de Nuestra Señora del Santissimo Rosario. It became a university on Nov. 20, 1645 by virtue of a papal bull issued by Pope Innocent X.

In 1785, Spanish King Charles III granted royal status to the university, thus making it an educational institution sponsored and funded by the Spanish Crown.

During the Spanish period, several prominent personalities in Philippine history like reformist and physician Dr. Jose Rizal, journalist and reformist Marcelo H. Del Pilar, lawyer and nationalist Apolinario Mabini, former president and revolutionary Emilio Aguinaldo, and Katipunan secretary Emilio Jacinto, as well as former presidents Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmeña all studied at the university.

After it was granted pontifical status in 1902, Pope Pius XII granted UST the title “Catholic University of the Philippines” in 1947. During the American period, the UST remained a popular institution among the Filipino elite despite the opening of the American-sponsored University of the Philippines and other publicly funded higher education institutions.

Today, UST remains one of the top four higher education institutions in the country, with more than 8,800 enrollees. The university is currently constructing with two campuses, in Santa Rosa, Laguna and General Santos City in SOCCSKSARGEN, in a bid to expand its footprint outside Manila.


Palafox, Quennie Ann. “Asia’s oldest university: The Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas.” National Historical Commission of the Philippines. September 4, 2012.

History of the University of Santo Tomas.” About Us. University of Santo Tomas Official Website.

Santos, Tomas. “Five more UST campuses eyed.The Varsitarian. October 29, 2015.

Trivia question:

What was the title of the papal bull that Pope Leo XIII issued granting pontifical status to UST?

Yesterday’s answer: US Seventh Fleet

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