In 1899, Dr. Horace B. Silliman, a retired businessman in New York State appeared at the office of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions with the conviction that the Filipino people would need a new kind of education. To support this, he contributed the initial sum of $10,000 toward the founding of an industrial school. Dr. Silliman had long been an active supporter of schools and colleges. Among such institutions was Hampton Institute of Virginia, and his proposal to the Presbyterian Board was for an industrial school in the Philippines on the Hampton model. The mission in the Philippines started with Dr. David Sutherland Hibbard and wife, Laura, who were commissioned to head it.
On August 28, 1901, Silliman Institute was established with only 15 boys. Enrollment in the institute grew gradually to include students from Asian countries. Silliman was granted university status in 1938. On September 10, 1935, it was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as a non-stock, non-profit educational institution.
Silliman is one of the selected higher education institutions in the country granted autonomous status by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). The same government agency has also designated Silliman as a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education and Teacher Education and a Center of Development in Accountancy, Anthropology, Biology and Information Technology Education. It is also one of select universities granted membership with CHED’s Philippine Higher Education Research Network, the higher cluster of universities carefully selected based on strength in research and publications.
The University has been granted Institutional Accreditation (the highest) by the Federation of Accrediting Agencies in the Philippines, the umbrella organization of accrediting agencies. Institutional Accreditation ACSCU-ACI Re-accreditation Status for 2019-202l.
In recognition of its pioneering works and active involvement in marine conservation, Silliman was also tagged as a Center of Excellence in Coastal Resource Management (CRM) by the United States Agency for International Development.
The University is a founding member of the Association of Christian Universities and Colleges in Asia. It also holds the same status in the Association of Christian Schools, Colleges and Universities, and maintains membership with other local and international organizations.
Silliman University (SU) continues to be among the eight Philippine universities ranked within the top 550 universities in Asia by the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) in its 2021 Asian University Rankings. SU is #6 in the 2021 Philippine University Ranking of Unirank.