The faculty of engineering has a brief history of fifty years. But searching for the root leads us to way back of 19th century. It really starts from the development of a Technical School which was founded in Colombo in 1893 to train sub-professional engineering personnel . It was renamed the Ceylon Technical College in 1906. But unfortunately the colonial authorities did not have a clear policy on technical education, and in consequence the college went through many vicissitudes being nearly downgraded to an "Industrial School'' at one stage. Thus, only in 1942 it was able to reach university college rank when it received "provisional recognition" from the University of London to prepare students for the external degree. Due to the prevailing wartime conditions the requirement of an inspection of the teaching facilities was waived.
On 1 July 1942 the University of Ceylon, the first university in the country, was established by the amalgamation of the Ceylon University College and the Ceylon Medical College. At the inception there were four faculties: Arts, Oriental Studies, Science and Medicine. Although the need for Engineering was recognized, planning was deferred due to the shortage of funds in the stringent wartime economy. The availability of degree courses at the Ceylon Technical College was also another reason for lowering the priority of engineering. However in December 1949 a crisis erupted at the Ceylon Technical College when the University of London made known its intention of reconsidering the provisional recognition in view of some serious shortcomings in the college. The degree courses were in serious trouble as future recognition appeared to be in doubt. The government responded to the crisis by requesting the University of Ceylon to set up a Faculty of Engineering by 1 July 1950. Ill-prepared though it was, the University accepted the challenge and with this decision the degree courses at the Ceylon Technical College were terminated.
The permanent home of the new Faculty was to be in the residential Campus in Peradeniya, but until the buildings were ready it had to be located in Colombo. For the time being, therefore, it had to make use of the laboratory facilities at the Ceylon Technical College, supplementing them with its own equipment. It had three Departments of study: Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.
The site for the Engineering complex was a 6-hectare block on the left bank of the Mahaweli River across which a bridge was built for access to the rest of the Campus. The entire project was planned by the staff of the Faculty and the University architects without any significant expatriate expertise. The laboratories, classrooms, library and other facilities were designed for quick and easy access, and ample provision was made for future expansion. When the project was completed in 1964 the move from Colombo took place. The facilities had a floor area of about 18,500 square meters, and 5,400 square metres have been added since then.
In 1942, when degree courses commenced at the Ceylon Technical College, the number of professional engineers in the country was estimated to be around 210, and 104 graduated in the period 1942-50 when the College had its link with the University of London. On the basis of these figures the intake of freshmen to the Faculty in 1950 was fixed at 25. This figure was steadily increased over the years, reaching 150 in 1964, the year of the move to Peradeniya. On requests from the UGC the intake was raised to 250 in 1978 and to 300 in 1992. From its inception in 1950 to 1971, when a second Faculty of Engineering was opened at Katubedde, this Faculty was the only source of supply of graduate engineers in the country. During the period 1950 - 53 when the Faculty undertook the task of completing the instruction of Ceylon Technical College, undergraduates were affected by the termination of the degree courses, 92 graduated with the University of London degree. The University of Ceylon's BSc. Engineering degree was first awarded in 1953, and during the period 1953-93, 5756 students have obtained this degree, including 546 women.
Steady expansion and diversification of the Faculty have taken place since the move to Peradeniya and there are now seven departments of study: Civil Engineering, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Production Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Engineering Mathematics and Computer Sciences. The number of professorial chairs in the Faculty is eleven, three each in Civil Engineering, and Electrical Electronic Engineering, two in Mechanical Engineering and one each in Engineering Mathematics, Production Engineering and Chemical Engineering. The output of graduates from the engineering departments now stands at 3526 in Civil Engineering, 916 in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, 856 in Mechanical Engineering, 322 in Production Engineering and 136 in Chemical Engineering.