The University of the Philippines was established in 1908 by Act No. 1870 of the Philippine Legislature 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.”

Three colleges initially comprised UP: the College of Fine Arts, College of Liberal Arts and the College of Medicine and Surgery, all located along Padre Faura and R. Hidalgo streets in the City of Manila. Another academic unit, the School of Agriculture, was established in Los Baños, Laguna. The succeeding years saw the creation of additional academic units in both Manila and Los Baños.

As the student population continued to increase, from 67 in 1908 to 7,849 in 1928, the need for UP to create more buildings and academic units became more apparent. The expansion would be hampered in the small location in Manila, thus, in 1939, the Board of Regents acquired a 493-hectare land in Diliman, Quezon City. Construction began in the same year but the development of the area was stalled by World War II, with invading Japanese troops occupying some of the buildings built.

By 1942, the university was forced to close down some of its colleges, with only the Colleges of Medicine, Engineering, and Pharmacy maintaining their operations.

When the war ended in 1945, the buildings in Diliman intended to be the homes of the College of Law and the College of Liberal Arts were left with extensive damages. The university administration led by UP President Bienvenido Gonzales sought a P13 million-grant from the US-Philippines War Damage Commission to restore the damaged facilities and to construct new ones to enable the transfer of the university from Manila to Diliman.


It was amidst the rural surroundings of Diliman that UP’s 40th anniversary celebration was held in Feb. 1949, highlighted by the transfer of the Oblation from UP Manila on Feb. 12. On that day, a motorcade made its way from Padre Faura all the way to the cogon-strewn expanse in Quezon City marking the university’s transfer from its original site to its new campus. The new campus would see the construction of buildings for the university’s expansion as it fulfilled its role as educator to the nation.

Administrative functions of the whole university were already relocated to the new campus, and the governance of UP’s regional units in Manila, Los Baños, Baguio and Cebu were also located in Diliman. The first college to operate in Diliman in 1949 was the Conservatory of Music. It was also in 1949 that general commencement exercises were first held at the Sunken Garden.

A map of Diliman campus made in 1949 showed the areas designated for future construction with the map recording its expansion projects. Soon after, the Diliman landscape was dotted with new buildings – the University Library, the College of Engineering, the Women’s Residence (now Kamia Residence Hall), the Conservatory of Music (now College of Music), the Administration Building, and the President’s Residence (now Executive House). Meanwhile, the rest of the colleges and administrative offices had to make do with temporary shelters made of sawali and galvanized iron.

The following decade saw the establishment of new institutes, UP’s response to the demand for more specialized fields of study the same time that it was reformulating its approaches to tertiary education.

One reform introduced in 1958 was the General Education (GE) Program, a series of core courses prescribed for all students at the undergraduate level. Most of these courses were taught at the then College of Liberal Arts, and UP President Vicente G. Sinco saw it fit to reorganize the college. He created the University College, which offered the core subjects to be taken in the first two years of the undergraduate course, and the College of Arts and Sciences and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, which offered major courses in the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences.

Construction was also in full swing in the 1950s. The Main Library (Gonzalez Hall) was completed in 1950, the Quezon Hall in 1951, the College of Engineering (Melchor Hall) and the Carillon Tower (Bajo las Campañas) in 1952, the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice in 1955, and the Church of the Risen Lord in 1956.

UP also set up additional training centers and institutes that were subsequently elevated into colleges: Institute of Public Administration (1952), now National College of Public Administration and Governance; the Statistical Center (1953), now the School of Statistics; the Labor Education Center (1954), now School of Labor and Industrial Relations; the Institute of Asian Studies (1955), now Asian Center; the College of Home Economics (1961); and the Institute of Library Science (1961), now School of Library and Information Studies.

By the end of UP President Carlos P. Romulo’s term in 1968, UP had become not only an institution of education, but also a center of research, a veritable think tank, with many of its faculty served as advisers and consultants in the national government.

Romulo’s administration was marked by the establishment of the Population Institute, the Law Center and the Applied Geodesy and Photogrammetry Training Center in 1964; the Institute of Mass Communications (now College of Mass Communication), the College of Business Administration (CBA) and the Institute of Planning in 1965; the Computer Center and the Institute for Small-Scale Industries in 1966; the Institute of Social Work and Community Development (now College of Social Work and Community Development) in 1967; and the reorganization of the Asian Center in 1968 through Republic Act No. 5334.

Meanwhile, various tumultuous national events eventually contributed to the declaration of Martial Law in 1972. As the bastion of activism in the 1960s and 1970s, UPD became a center of dissent against the national administration. From Feb. 1-9, 1971, the entire campus declared itself free from government control during the Diliman Commune. Streets were barricaded with chairs and tables as students and faculty members took over the campus in response to increasing military presence and the increase of oil prices.

Despite the period of unrest, UP’s administrators tried to sustain the university’s educational priorities and institutional autonomy. At the height of activism in the university, UP President Salvador P. Lopez began the system of democratic consultation in which decisions such as promotions and appointments were made through greater participation with faculty and administrative personnel.

Lopez also initiated the reorganization of UP into the UP System to decentralize governance.

Giving a boost to the UP System’s growth at that time was the P150-million grant from the national budget for UP’s Infrastructure Development Program distributed throughout the System. In Diliman, the grant funded the construction of buildings for CBA, the Institute of Zoology, the Institute for Small-Scale Industries, the Transport Training Center, and the Coral Laboratory of The Marine Science Institute (MSI). Kalayaan Residence Hall and housing for low-income employees were also built around this time.

Under UP President Onofre D. Corpuz , the prioritization of tourism as a national industry led to the establishment of the Asian Institute of Tourism. New centers for research and degree granting units were also established on campus such as the Third World Studies Center (1977), Creative Writing Center and National Engineering Center (1978), UP Extension Program in San Fernando (1979), Institute of Islamic Studies (1973), and UP Film Center and National Center for Transportation Studies (1976).

UP President Edgardo J. Angara’s Diamond Jubilee Project in 1983 rallied the alumni across country and abroad in a fundraising blitz which eventually raised more than P80 million. This money was earmarked for the creation of new professorial chairs and faculty grants. Angara also organized two committees, the Management Review Committee (MRC) and the Committee to Review Academic Programs (CRAP), to evaluate and recommend measures for improving UP’s operations. The MRC report led to the wide-ranging reorganization of the UP system, most importantly, the further decentralization of UP administration and the declaration of UP Diliman as an autonomous unit on Mar. 23, 1983.

The first UPD chancellor (1982-1983) was Edgardo J. Angara who was also UP President (1981-1987). The first full-time UPD Chancellor was Dr. Ernesto G. Tabujara (1983-1990). UP College Baguio was then placed under the supervision of UPD. Meanwhile, the College of Arts and Sciences also underwent a reorganization to become three distinct colleges – the College of Science, the College of Arts and Letters, and the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy.


In April 23, 1985, UPD was formally declared a constituent university (CU). UPD also kept with the information-driven culture all over the globe. Installation of a fiber-optic network linking the various colleges in the campus, or Diliman Network (DilNet), began in the mid-1990s during the term of Chancellor Roger D. Posadas and continued under the term of succeeding Chancellor Claro T. Llaguno. The DilNet serves as UP’s gateway to the global network of the Internet. The campus also welcomed fledgling technology companies in its technology park.

Tasked to spearhead the development of programs to use Filipino in undergraduate instruction, research and extension activities was the Sentro ng Wikang Filipino created in March 1990 during UP President Jose V. Abueva’s administration. It was also to oversee the implementation of the UP Language Policy and to coordinate the efforts of academic units in developing teaching and research materials in Filipino. It was also in 1990 that the University Center for Women’s Studies (CWS) – the first such center in a Philippine university – was established as a concrete step toward a more gender-sensitive society.

In 1995, the Materials Science and Engineering Center was established in UPD to help accelerate the development and technological capabilities in advanced materials such as polymers, semiconductors, superconductors, ceramics, alloys and others. To promote engineering, UP President Emil Q. Javier initiated the establishment of the National Graduate School of Engineering in 1997.

Chancellor Posadas initiated the establishment of the Technology Management Center (TMC) in Jun. 1995 and offered a year later the Master of Technology Management program in Jun. 1996.

The new millennium and UPD’s Continuum

Seeing the need for reforms in the GE program, the GE council consulted the concerned sectors and  proposed a revitalized GE program (RGEP) which was implemented in 2001. The RGEP subsumes the old GE program and it adapted the objectives and framework of GE program but opened up a lot more avenues for learning as it is based on the premise of freedom of choice and no prerequisites.

The first Interactive Learning Center (ILC) was inaugurated in UPD in Oct. 2003. The ILC was created as a support facility to strengthen the teaching of GE in the UPS.

In 2007, the Engineering Research and Development for Technology (ERDT) was established with the approval of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The ERDT is a joint project of eight universities with UPD as the lead university. It is a 10-year development program that seeks to address the lack of engineering manpower with advanced degrees to jumpstart high-value economic activities for the country.

In order to achieve its mission, the ERDT has an infrastructure component, consisting of the construction of buildings to house the following departments at the new Engineering Complex: Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute; Institute of Civil Engineering; Mining, Metallurgical and Materials Engineering; Industrial Engineering and Operations Research; Mechanical Engineering; and Energy and Environmental Engineering.

Coinciding with the centennial anniversary celebration in 2008, a new UP charter was enacted into law on April 28, 2008. Republic Act 9500, also known as the University of the Philippines Charter of 2008, declared UP as the national university, “a public and secular institution of higher learning and a community of scholars dedicated to the search for truth and knowledge as well as the development of future leaders.”

UPD is also the site of the country’s National Science Complex. Notable academic and research units of UPD centered at the Complex include MSI, the National Institute of Geological Sciences (NIGS), the National Institute of Physics (NIP), and the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (NIMBB), all pioneers of scientific research and development in the Philippines.

The university also represents UPS in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines. Its athletic teams, collectively called the Fighting Maroons, compete in various athletic competitions, perennially landing in the top three. On the other hand, its cheerdance group, the UP Varsity Pep Squad, represents the university in the annual UAAP Cheerdance Competition and also represented the country in various international cheerleading competitions earning top honors in many occasions.

Today, UPD is gearing itself to be a global university at par with the region and the world’s premier learning institutions. This has become more urgent and compelling given the passing of the new UP Charter, the K-to-12 curriculum, global and regional trends and the impending ASEAN Economic Cooperation 2015 (AEC 2015).

The AEC 2015 envisions its 10 member countries to be: (a) a single market and production base, (b) a highly competitive economic region, (c) a region of equitable economic development, and (d) a region fully integrated into the global economy.

To address the need to internationalize and maximize the opportunities offered by ASEAN integration and global educational partnerships, UPD, together will all the constituent universities of UPS, will shift its academic calendar from June to August, starting Academic Year 2014-2015. This move is historic as UPD will be among the first universities to implement the academic calendar shift.


Last Updated: 11 Nov 2021