Father Rector Rolando de la Rosa, O.P. and Secretary General Fr. Florentino Bolo, O.P. hand over UST tokens to the President, who gave the keynote speech in the opening of the 10th biennial conference of the International Council of the Universities of St. Thomas Aquinas. Photo by Paul Allyson R. QuiambaoPresident Benigno Aquino III paid tribute to UST for its “noble mission” of instilling Catholic values among its students along with the “high quality of education” it provides. He also congratulated the University for producing alumni “who have learned to balance their intellect on an unshakable foundation of morality.”

Speaking at the 10th Biennial Conference of the International Council of the Universities of St. Thomas Aquinas (Icusta) last January 26 at the Santisimo Rosario Parish Church, Aquino praised the University for 400 years of “quality Christian education.”

Photo by Paul Allyson R. Quiambao“For four centuries, [UST] has upheld the traditions of excellence and integrity, known to many as the Thomasian spirit, which now resides in the hearts and minds of our leaders and professionals,” the President said. “You have also opened the doors to our guests and shown them not just our well-known hospitality, but our capability to host important, international gatherings.”

“The University of Santo Tomas has educated the best this country has to offer. But when we look back at the long list of distinguished individuals this institution has produced, it is not merely education that sets them apart, but principles,” Aquino said. “This university has made it its noble mission to instill Catholic principles to each of its students while, at the same time, giving them a high quality of education.”

“It is no surprise that among those who serve our countrymen at the highest levels—presidents, senators, Supreme Court chief justices, saints, martyrs, and even artists—many are Thomasians—people who have learned to balance their intellect on an unshakable foundation of morality,” he added.

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“I think this is what Thomasians around the world share in common—the ability to excel in their chosen field and contribute to the welfare, not just of their country, but of the world,” Aquino also said.

Noting the change in the social, cultural and spiritual environment of the 21st century, Aquino said Catholic institutions must work harder in honing student with the necessary knowledge and skills required to produce competitive citizens.

“UST has always been an exemplar of what we ask of our educational institutions. Through your efforts, we are hoping that Filipinos across the archipelago can all exhibit the qualities of your graduates,” he said.

President Aquino also cited Icusta for its commitment to academic excellence.

“For almost two decades, you have shown the world your commitment to international diversity by instilling a love of and a passion for truth, while pursuing academic excellence and practicing a life of faith,” Aquino said.

Reform in higher education

Recognizing the mismatch between job openings and courses offered in schools, Aquino announced that the government had declared a moratorium on new higher education institutions (HEI) offering business administration, nursing, teacher education, and hotel and restaurant management courses, pointing that numerous graduates of these courses are “hard-pressed to find jobs.”

“The Commission on Higher Education has also started to take action to review and fix the HEI systems in the country to make them more efficient, such as forging greater ties between HEIs and employers, which will ease the burden of job-hunting on new graduates,” he said.

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Aquino also challenged the youth to reinforce their enthusiasm for a “better Philippines.”

“This is a task that is heaped on all of our backs—a task that seemed much heavier under the darkness of the previous years. But daylight is upon us,” he said.

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