University History


Over a hundred years of Service to the Filipino

The University of the Philippines was founded on June 18, 1908 through Act No. 1870 of the Philippine Assembly. The UP was the result of the Secretary of Public Instruction, W. Morgan Schuster’s recommendation to the Philippine Commission, the upper house of the Philippine Assembly. Act 1870 authorized the Governor General to establish the University of the Philippines in the “city of Manila, or at any point he may deem most convenient.” The UP was to give “advanced instruction in literature, philosophy, the sciences and arts, and to give professional and technical training” to every qualified student regardless of “age, sex, nationality, religious belief and political affiliation.”


The early years


UP first opened its doors at Calle Isaac Peral (now United Nations Avenue) and Padre Faura in downtown Manila in 1909 with the School of Fine Arts; the College of Liberal Arts; the College of Medicine; the College of Veterinary Medicine; the College of Engineering; the College of Law; and the College of Agriculture in Los Baños, Laguna. Its first president was an American named Murray Bartlett. He vowed that the UP must be “for the Filipino” and that it must be “supported by the people’s money” with a charter framed by the people’s representatives and “its hope based on the confidence and sympathy of the people.”

In 1913, the University of the Philippines Alumni Association was established by UP graduates after College of Law Dean George Malcolm conceived the idea. The student council was organized in 1914 as a body where cases on student discipline were referred to.

pharmaceutical lab 2

In 1915, the UP had its first Filipino president in Ignacio Villamor. Under Villamor, the UP continued to grow with the addition of units such as the Conservatory of Music; the University High School; the College of Education; and the Junior College in Cebu City. In 1919, the College of Veterinary Science was transferred to the Los Baños campus.

UP’s third president and the last American to hold the post was Guy Potter Benton. Benton assumed the presidency in 1921. Benton saw the addition of more units:  the School of Hygiene; the Department of Library Science; the Agricultural Extension Service; and the creation of the university Corps of Cadets. The Philippine Collegian, the university’s longest running official student publication published its first issue in 1922.

Rafael Palma assumed UP presidency in 1923. Academic freedom became a hallmark in UP as Palma encouraged discussions on social and political issues confronting the country. Palma promoted the ideal of “freedom of the mind” and “the determined search for the truth in God, man and things.” In 1935, UP’s famous statue, named the Oblation by Palma, was installed at the Manila campus. The statue was the creation of National Artist Guillermo Tolentino on his interpretation of the second stanza of Dr. Jose Rizal’s “Mi Ultimo Adios.”

Jorge Bocobo, succeeded Palma. An intense nationalist, Bocobo promoted patriotism and love of culture in the university. He also promoted values such as discipline, duty and sacrifice, values which he believed were essential for nation-building.


The transfer to Diliman

construction at diliman

The Second World War saw the destruction of several buildings of the UP in Manila and Los Baños, Cebu and Iloilo. In 1947, the Philippine General Hospital formally became a part of UP through Executive Order No. 94. In 1948, under the stewardship of UP President Bienvenido Gonzales, much of the UP was transferred from its campus in Manila to bigger campus in Diliman, Quezon City.

The 50’s and the 60’s saw the transformation of UP from the brainchild of the American hopes and dreams for the Philippines into a bastion of intense nationalism. UP President Vicente Sinco preserved the university’s integrity from communist paranoia and partisan politics while UP President Carlos P Romulo introduced Filipinism, Student Activism and Faculty Dissent.


1971 was the year when the Diliman Republic became the Diliman Commune. From January to February, the campus became a battleground between militant students protesting the deteriorating conditions of the country, and policemen. The students completely barricaded the campus and established full control of the facilities. There were several attempts by the police to assault the campus, but they were unsuccessful.

In the succeeding years, the UP has expanded much by establishing campuses and units in Baguio City; Miag-ao Iloilo; Tacloban City; San Fernando, Pampanga; Mintal, Davao; and the Open University based in Los Baños, Laguna.


Into the next century

Much has changed in UP over the past 100 years. From one campus in Manila, it now has 8 constituent universities in 17 campuses all over the country; it has 258 undergraduate programs; and 438 graduate programs with students from almost every region in the country.

On April 29, 2008, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed the new UP Charter or Republic Act 9500. The new charter hopes to prepare UP for the challenges it will face as the country’s leading university in the coming years. Efforts for the enactment of a new UP Charter could go back to the term of UP President Edgardo Angara and further studied during the term of UP President Jose Abueva. Armed with the new charter the university prepares itself for the challenges of the 21st century. With this preparation comes the strengthening of the different units of UP.

From the education of ordinary Filipinos under Americans at the time of UP President Murray Bartlett to its journey onto another century under the stewardship of President Alfredo E. Pascual, the university has produced 30 out of 31 National Scientists; 34 out of 57 National Artists; 7 out of the 14 Presidents of the Republic; 12 Chief Justices of the Supreme Court; 15,000 doctors; 8,000 lawyers; 15, 000 engineers; 23, 000 teachers and hundreds of thousands of graduates in other academic fields. The UP has more than served its purpose well and has been of faithful service to the nation.


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