The University of Colombo (also known as UoC), Sri Lanka's oldest university, is located in the urban centre of Colombo. It was founded as University College Colombo, affiliated to the University of London.
Today, "College House" (the administrative hub of the university) with its period architecture, is a well known landmark in the city.
The history of Higher Education in Sri Lanka is closely linked with that of the University of Colombo which traces its beginnings to the establishment of the Ceylon Medical School over 115 years ago in June 1870. In 1880 the School was raised to the status of College, thus becoming the Ceylon Medical College which permitted it to award the Licentiate in Medicine and Surgery (LMS) and in 1889 the College was recognized by the General Medical Council of the United Kingdom when holders of its license became eligible to practice in Great Britain.
Agitation for the provision of higher education in the island and for the establishment of a University began by the mid 19th century. This agitation gathered momentum by the beginning of the 20th century and the Ceylon University Association, formed in 1906 by a group of western educated elite, urged the establishment of a national University. Owing to the persistent demands of the Association the government decided in 1913 to set up a University College.
However, indecision regarding the nature and status of the institution to be set up, its location, and eventually the intervention of the First World War hindered further progress and it was only in 1920 that the government purchased a private building called the "Regina Walawwa" which came to be known as "College House" for the purpose of setting up the University College. The University College Colombo was formally declared open in January 1921 in the building that was originally the main building of Royal College Colombo located on Thurstan Road opposite College House.
From its inception, the University College was regarded as only a preliminary step, a half-way house, the ultimate goal being the establishment of a fully fledged degree granting University. The University of Ceylon was established on 1 July 1942 by the Ceylon University Ordinance No.20 of 1942. The University was to be located in Peradeniya and was to be unitary, residential and autonomous. With the establishment of the University, the two Colleges, the Ceylon Medical College and the Ceylon University College, lost their separate identities and were absorbed into the new Institution.
The first official announcement of the creation of a separate University in Colombo was made in Parliament in the Throne Speech of 1967. The necessary legislation for this purpose had been prepared by the Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs under section 34 of the Higher Education Act No. 20 of 1966 on the recommendation of the National Council of Higher Education. The new University which came into existence on 1 October 1967 with the Colombo Campus as its nucleus had initially a student population of nearly 5000 reading for degrees in Arts, Law, the Sciences and Medicine and a teaching staff of nearly 300.
The University of Ceylon Act No. 1 of 1972, which replaced the Higher Education Act of 1966 altered the complexion of the hitherto familiar University structure. The four independent autonomous universities (University of Ceylon, Peradeniya, University of Ceylon, Colombo, Vidyodaya University of Ceylon and Vidyalankara University of Ceylon) which had been set up by then and the Ceylon College of Technology at Katubedda became Campuses of a single University styled the University of Sri Lanka. Its headquarters designated "Senate House" was located in Colombo. This arrangement did not last very long. With the promulgation of the Universities Act. No 16 of 1978, University status was again restored to the Campuses and the Colombo Campus of the University of Sri Lanka was renamed the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, the name and style by which it is known today.
In keeping with its motto "Buddhih Sarvatra Bhrajate" which means "Wisdom shines forth everywhere", the University of Colombo strives to maintain academic excellence in all areas of study. The Medical and Science Faculties of the University are not only the oldest in the university system of Sri Lanka but are also arguably the best in terms of Faculty and resources.
Student life is enhanced by a plethora of extracurricular activities offered on campus. The beautiful playground and the modern gymnasium offer sportsmen and women the opportunity to exploit and develop their abilities to the fullest.
Meanwhile the New Arts Theatre is often the arena for spotlighting the dramatic/musical talents of our student population.
The location of the University affords the student population all the advantages of a "metropolitan university" in easy access to international information/resource centres, libraries, theatres, sports complexes etc.
Today, the University of Colombo with a proud history of over 115 years continues in its endeavour to meet the challenge of maintaining its position as the "metropolitan university, modern and international in outlook and character".