The Department of Geography is one of the first few Departments that was established in the University of Ceylon in Colombo in 1942. This department was shifted to University of Peradeniya in 1952 when the faculty of Arts moved there. Subsequently when a second faculty of Arts was begun in 1963 in Colombo, affiliated to the University of Ceylon in Peradeniya, several sub-departments were established and the sub-department of Geography was one, which became a fully-fledged Department in 1967. Initially only undergraduate programs were conducted in this Department.

With the introduction of the Thistlewaite’s reforms on curriculum development in the Arts Faculty undergraduate programme of the University of Colombo, the majoring concept was introduced and the Department of Geography conducted the courses accordingly, whereby the undergraduates completed a three year degree (with Geography was one of the subjects) and majored in Geography in the following year to obtain the B. Phil.

Thereafter when the job-oriented degree in development studies was introduced, this Department offered several Geography-based courses to the undergraduates. By the late 70’s the conventional Bachelor’s degree in Arts was re-introduced. Within this programme the special degree courses in geography too were offered. In the late 80’s several postgraduate programmes were offered by this Department. Under the Post-graduate programmes, this department offered both the conventional M.A. degree by examination and research, and a Post-graduate programme in Land settlement and development.

During the latter half of the 70’s a collaboration agreement was concluded between the University of Colombo and NUFFIC (Netherlands Universities Fund for International Co-operation) to conduct research and training programmes in this Department. The Certificate course and the Post-graduate diploma programme in rural area development were thus initiated and conducted (in the English Medium) by the Department. Under this link programme several members of the academic staff were sent to the Netherlands to obtain their post graduate qualifications and to update their knowledge. This programme was concluded in the late 80’s. In the early 90’s certificate courses in Ariel Photo Interpretation was conducted by this Department.

In 1992 this Department initiated a research and training programme funded by NORAD via the Ministry of Plan Implementation. Under this programme the Regional Development Studies Centre was established and affiliated to this Department. Through this center the Department was able to establish a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) laboratory for training and research. The Post graduate diploma in Sub-National Level Development & Planning (SNLDP) for the officers in the Planning Service was sponsored by this centre.