The University of Santo Tomas is one of the oldest existing universities and holds the oldest extant university charter in the Philippines and in Asia. It was founded on April 28, 1611 by the third Archbishop of Manila, Msgr. Miguel de Benavides, O.P., together with Frs. Domingo de Nieva and Bernardo de Santa Catalina. It was originally conceived as a school to prepare young men for the priesthood. Located within Intramuros, the Walled City, it was first called Colegio de Nuestra Señora del Santisimo Rosario and later renamed Colegio de Santo Tomas in memory of the foremost Dominican Theologian, Saint Thomas Aquinas. In 1624, the Colegio was authorized to confer academic degrees in Theology, Philosophy and Arts. On November 20, 1645 Pope Innocent X elevated the College to the rank of a university and in 1680, it was subsequently placed under royal patronage.
Through the centuries, the University was given the following titles: Royal, Pontifical, and Catholic University of the Philippines. In 1785, for the loyalty shown by the administration and students who volunteered to defend Manila against the British invasion, King Charles III of Spain granted it the title of "Royal University". Pope Leo XIII made the University of Santo Tomas a "Pontifical University" on 1902 and in 1947, Pope Pius XII bestowed upon it the title of "The Catholic University of the Philippines". Thus its complete name is The Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas, The Catholic University of the Philippines.