The teaching of Sociology was initially introduced at the University of Colombo within the Department of Sociology and Social Welfare in the Faculty of Social Sciences in 1969. The department enrolled 12 students for the academic year commencing from October 1969 with two Assistant Lecturers and a Professor. Tamil medium instruction began in 1970. Students were given the opportunity to follow a three-year B.A. degree program majoring in Sociology, with an additional year leading to a B.Phil Degree.

With university reforms in 1972, the Department suffered a major setback. In the ensuing period, Sociology was taught as a subsidiary subject within the two-degree programs, Development Studies and the Bachelor of Education.

Educational reforms in 1977 introduced further changes in the University system, and the Department regained its original status. In 1978, a four-year special degree program in Sociology was offered initially to five students. This program continues to the present with some structural changes.

Today, on average, more than 1000 students follow courses in Sociology at both undergraduate and graduate levels. The three-year undergraduate programme is split into specializing streams of Urban and Community Studies,  and Applied Sociological Studies. The four-year special degree programme is offered in Sociology and Social Work. At present, the department offers three postgraduate courses. These are the Post Graduate Diploma in Applied Sociology (duration: one year) that commenced in 1995 and the Masters in Sociology (duration: two years) that commenced in 1978. A one year Masters in Sociology was introduced in 2017 to cater to working students who wish to expand their knowledge in Sociology.