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The English Language Teaching Unit (ELTU) was originally called the Sub - Department of English. As the name implies, it then functioned as a part of the Department of English.

The ELTU was established as an independent teaching unit in 1987. The pioneers in the venture were Mrs. Lalitha Gunawardena and Mrs. Sarojini Knight.The former was the first Head of the ELTU. The latter was the coordinator of the ELTU, Faculty of Arts, which was one of the two ELTUs established at the University of Peradeniya at the beginning, the other being the ELTU of the Faculty of Engineering.

The ELTU is now an independent body that prepares and conducts its own courses and prepares a variety of examinations. It is one of the largest sub departments at the University of Peradeniya .It has sub units that operate independently of each other in all seven faculties of the university. The present Head of the ELTU is Mrs. Chintha Ellawala.

At present about 6000 students are following the English teaching programmes at various levels. The primary mission of the ELTU is to assist students with their English so that they can function effectively in their respective disciplines.

English is not considered a pre-requisite to university entry although students are expected to sit for a general English paper at the A/L’s. The average student who enters the university has a low competence level in English language. At entry point it ranges in the IELTS bands three (extremely limited user), four (limited user), and five (modest user). Approximately 75 – 80% of the entrants to the university fall within this range. A minority of about 5% are competent users of English. ( IELTS band 7 or 8).

The ELTU of each faculty prepares its own courses. In faculties where professional courses are conducted, ie: The faculties of Medicine, Engineering, Veterinary Science, Dental Science and Agriculture, the English course is based on ESP.( English for Special Purposes).A pass in English is compulsory for students in all faculties except in the Faculty of dental Science. Some faculties such as Arts and Engineering withhold the degree certificate until an undergraduate passes in English.

At present the ELTU conducts Intensive English Courses of 3-4 months duration at all faculties of the university. It also conducts ongoing English courses for 1- 3 years.