The University of San Agustin (commonly referred to as San Agustin, San Ag, or USA) is a private Catholic university in Iloilo City, Philippines. With 40 initial students, it was established in 1904 as a preparatory school for boys by the Spanish Catholic missionaries under the oldest religious Roman Catholic order in the Philippines during the American colonial period, the Order of Saint Augustine (San Agustin). In 1917, it was incorporated and became Colegio de San Agustin de Iloilo. In March 1953, San Agustin attained university status making it as the First University in Western Visayas. San Agustin is the first and only Augustinian university in the Asia-Pacific region.
University of San Agustin now provides programs from Basic Education up to post graduate studies in the areas of Business, Education, Computer Studies, Arts and Sciences, Performing Arts, Music, Engineering, Medical Technology, Nursing and Pharmacy. In 2013, the university celebrated its 60th year as an institution of higher learning.
The original Urdaneta Hall, built in 1939 and named after Andrés de Urdaneta, one of the first Catholic missionaries who came to the Philippines, is the oldest Spanish structure in San Agustin. Augustinian friars from Spain belonging to the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus of the Philippines founded the University of San Agustin on July 15, 1904. They were assisted by their American confreres from the Augustinian U.S. Province of St. Thomas of Villanova. The Spanish Augustinians were the first Christian missionaries of any religious order to enter the Philippines and begin its conversion to Catholicism.
The university began as a preparatory school for boys during the American colonial period. It was granted government recognition on December 12, 1912 for its various course offerings. On February 5, 1917, it was formally incorporated under the name Colegio de San Agustín de Iloilo. In 1928, one of the country's oldest campus publications, The Augustinian Mirror, was established, producing some of the country's well-known writers. The 1930s saw rapid growth with the opening of three colleges in quick succession: College of Liberal Arts in 1935, College of Commerce in 1936 and College of Law in 1937. On the eve of the Second World War, the college admitted female students for the first time in 1940.
During the Second World War (1941–45), the college was temporarily shuttered as the Philippines fought a guerilla war against the Japanese. The war led to the destruction of all the buildings, except for Urdaneta Hall, which at present houses the university theatre and the College of Pharmacy and Medical Technology. With almost the entire college in ruins, some friars advocated closing the school altogether while others pushed for its immediate rehabilitation. It was eventually reopened in 1945, followed by a decade of expansion that ushered in both the College of Pharmacy and the College of Technology (1945), the Normal (Teacher's) College (1947), the Graduate School (1950), and the College of Dentistry (1953). The school was granted university status on March 1, 1953, a year before its 50th anniversary, making it the first university in Western Visayas.
The following year, Rev. Angel Dulanto, OSA arrived from Spain after completing his studies at Villanova University, an American sister school of San Agustin. As an impresario, he introduced the yearly velada, characterized by a weeklong festivity of artistic, religious, and cultural events. A zarzuela, staged by both professors and students, is the centerpiece of University Week from February 14–20.
In 1965 Rev. Nicanor Lana, OSA, Ph.D. became rector of the university. His term was marked by vast improvements in the school's infrastructure. The same year he started his term as rector, he inaugurated DySA, the official radio station of the university, to help expand the reach of the university through mass media. The University of San Agustín Press, known today as Libro Agustino, came a year later. In the months leading to the centenary of San Agustín in 2004, it began publishing book titles by Augustinian authors, with an eye at producing a total of 100 different volumes over several years.
Poor enrollment forced the administrators to phase out the College of Dentistry in 1967. But a flowering of cultural and artistic activities on campus led to the founding of the famous Kawilihan-USA Dance Troupe, the USA Troubadours, and the Conservatory of Music. Rev. Santiago Ezcurra, OSA, a Spanish musician who studied music in Rome, was formally installed as its first dean. In 1969 the USA Clinical Laboratory was opened, followed a few years later by the introduction of the College of Nursing in 1974. In 2010, the university announced the establishment of a new extension campus in Mati, Davao Oriental, Philippines.
1984 to Present
The university maintains a Level III accreditation status granted by the PAASCU and is one of the two schools in the region having an autonomous status granted by CHED. The university's campus, situated in the very heart of the city on General Luna Street, has a modern gymnasium, an auditorium, various conferences and seminar rooms, science, computer and speech laboratories, a museum, a bookstore, a library, an instructional media center, and tennis and badminton courts.
In 1984 the all-Filipino Augustinian Province of Santo Niño of Cebu was formed, separating from the mother Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus of the Philippines based in Madrid, and ownership of the university was handed over to the latest circumscription of the Augustinian Order. A succession of rectors was appointed, including Reverends Bernardino Ricafrente, Eusebio Berdon, Mamerto Alfeche, and Rodolfo Arreza. During Reverend Arreza's term, he pursued linkages with various universities abroad and focused on research development.
San Agustín promotes literature in the region through the Fray Luis de Léon Creative Writing Institute, sponsor of the annual national writers workshop of the same name. The workshop awards a number of writing fellowships to writers in English, Hiligaynon, and other Philippine languages. Its official student publication, The Augustinian Mirror, has won various journalism awards and has produced some of the Philippines' highly respected literary minds, notably Augustinian poet Gilbert Luis R. Centina III, OSA.
Recent developments in the university include the establishment of various research and communication centers, namely:
- The Institute for Augustinian Studies
- Villanova Institute for Social Science Research and Cultural Studies
- Mendel Institute for Natural Science and Technology Research
- Institute for Social Development Issues and Initiatives
Over the years, school enrollment has increased, resulting in the decision to move the high school department to a new campus in the suburbs of Sambag, Jaro in June 1995.