The University of Peradeniya is the heir to the oldest university tradition in Sri Lanka as the successor to the University of Ceylon, the first institution of its kind in the country. Its founding on 1 July 1942 as an autonomous corporation was the fulfillment of hopes and expectations of many who had been campaigning for a university in this country. The University is located on a site of great natural beauty, just 8km from the city of Kandy, the historic capital of the last independent kingdom of Sri Lanka, and 100km from Colombo, the current capital of the country. The university covers about 700 hectares of land located on the flood plain of the Mahaweli river, as well as on the lower slopes of the Hantana Range. The developed area, known as the University Park, is about 150 hectares while the rest of the land remains afforested. The university presently consists of eight academic faculties.
The Faculty of Arts of the University of Peradeniya is the oldest and the foremost centre of education and research in the Humanities and the Social Sciences in the country. It was established in 1952, primarily as a tertiary education institution for undergraduate teaching. It introduced its first higher degrees programme in 1956 in the form of a Postgraduate Diploma in Education. Since then, the higher degrees programme of the Faculty of Arts has gradually expanded with the addition of Masters and PhD degrees in many other disciplines.
At present, the postgraduate programme caters to approximately 2000 students following courses leading to Diplomas, MA, MPhil, and PhD. degrees in 20 different disciplines in 17 departments. The intake for the postgraduate programme in the 2009/10 academic year was about 500 students. The postgraduate programme of the Faculty of Arts is the most diverse and the largest such programme in any university in Sri Lanka.