Rector concerned over students’ mental health, calls for reduced academic units

Photo by Deejae S. Dumlao

UST RECTOR Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, O.P. wants stronger action to stem cases of depression and suicide on campus, such as by reducing the load of students to ease academic pressure.

“I have noticed that some programs have 33 to 37 units [per term and] that’s too much, that’s not very healthy,” Dagohoy told the Varsitarian. “Looking at the number of academic units that [the students] have, that’s indicative of too much pressure.”

Dagohoy expressed concern over the frequency of suicide attempts in the University.

“[Suicide attempts are] becoming frequent and the reasons are surprising, academics usually. It gives us a signal about the quality of life of our students,” he told the Varsitarian last Sept. 8.

“I’m not saying that there is a correlation between the number of those people who attempt suicide and these [academic] pressures, but somehow we have to look into all these areas,” he added.

The Rector is set to meet with the University’s Academic Senate to discuss students’ academic and mental health concerns.

Aside from the Rector, the Academic Senate is composed of the vice chancellor, the vice rector for religious affairs, the vice rector for academic affairs and college deans.

Monitoring students

Renz Christian Argao, supervising psychologist of the UST Psychotrauma Clinic, cited family problems and rapid change in technology as possible reasons for the increase in suicide cases.

“We also place focus on the developmental stages of the students; as adolescents, they are in a period of change and confusion,” Argao said in an online interview.

Data from the “depression scale report” of the UST Counseling and Career Center showed an average score of 57.21 for Academic Year 2013-2014, indicating that Thomasians, mostly sophomores, felt lethargic, sad and disinterested. The score however was “not enough to warrant a diagnosis for depression.” with reports from Maria Crisanta M. Paloma


To investigate and expose unspoken issues and anomalies, send confidential news tips to the Special Reports team of the Varsitarian at or at THE VARSITARIAN office, Rm. 105, Tan Yan Kee Student Center, University of Santo Tomas, España, Manila.


  1. I can personally attest. I have, and me myself, seem to have become “robots” rather than humans enjoying study. Ofcourse, compared to my load, some students study for longer hours in a week, especially those within the field of medicine and pharmacy. The thing is, although all of them must succumb to the culture of “babad sa aral”, NOT ALL are fit inside the structure. I REALLY attest, that ofcourse, sometimes study is dehumanizing when the individual is seen as a “package” that must necessarily be, and a little less than perfectly produced. Education must make us virtuous, not merely products that fit inside a CAPITALISTIC society. But let me clarify, I do not condemn this entirety, especially that I myself is a product of this system, more so of UST herself. But what I do really assume, is that the competitive atmosphere REALLY has a direct effect on the students’ mental health. Thank you father Rector!

  2. High academic loads and atmosphere of competition may be a direct factor but these are needed to train, enhance, and mold us to be ready for higher responsibilities and greater pressures when we face the real life after college. Some loads maybe considered to be lessened as to fit the capacity of the students, however guiding the students how to manage time, properly handle stress, plus the love and concern of our beloved professors and university personells will strengthen the emotional capacity of our students and therefore enable them to overcome and gain the benefit of these trials. I can testify to this because we have experienced this in our beloved College of Nursing. The expectation is great but the excellence in teaching plus the care are abundant. We need pressure to mold us, and we need much grace to handle these pressures.

  3. In UP Diliman, academic load is limited to 18 units per semester.

    UST must seriously consider benchmarking the academic load per semester against other leading universities here and abroad.

    On average, 6 subjects/courses per semester should be more than enough. UST must focus on quality of subjects/courses/teaching rather than quantity of units. As an accountancy graduate of UST, I can say that if teaching method is efficient, many courses with 6 units like financial accounting and auditing can actually be compressed to 3 units as with many other universities here and abroad.

    Obviously, the colleges have a financial incentive to increase the # of units as this translates to more tuition revenue. But then if they want to focus on quality, they might as well increase the fee per unit while reducing the number of units just so they won’t be negatively affected financially.


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