The University of Ceylon was established in 1942 to train young persons in different academic fields of study and to provide the much needed trained manpower for post-independence Ceylon. In the early parliamentary debates on the establishment of a local university it was conceptualized as one being designed on local culture to meet the manpower needs of an agricultural economy. However, the agriculture degree program was launched only 5 years after establishing the University.
The early thinking was to develop the Faculty of Agriculture of the University at Gannoruwa at the premises of the Agricultural Farm School of the State Department of Agriculture, which was to be shifted to Kundasale. However, with mounting pressure to commence the agriculture program and the failure to acquire the necessary land at the proposed site, the Faculty was started in a single building within the University with only four academic staff members. The initial buildings for the faculty were built with the assistance received from Canada under Colombo Plan and with educational assistance provided by the government of USA.
Establishment of the Faculty of Agriculture and Veterinary Science at Peradeniya was approved by the then Minister of Education, on 5th April 1947. Following this, the first batch of 16 students to study agriculture was admitted after completing the General Science Qualifying (GSQ) examination in 1947. Those students followed another two years of study program in Agriculture to be conferred the B.Sc. Agriculture degree.
In 1953, a Department of Agriculture was set up in the newly established Faculty of Agriculture and Veterinary Science, together with departments of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science. The three-year B.Sc. Agriculture degree program was subsequently strengthened by including a one-year farm practical training program conducted at Mahailluppallama to replace the requirement to sit for the GSQ examination at the end of the first year.
In 1973, an independent Faculty of Agriculture was established with six departments of study. The B.Sc. Agriculture degree program was further strengthened by providing field training in plantation management of three months duration, with the assistance of the Ministry of Plantation. Subsequently in 1975, a program of advanced learning under any one of the departments of study was introduced. During this advanced training program, undertaking a research project and submitting a report under the guidance of a member of staff in the faculty was made compulsory for all undergraduates in Agriculture.
This student project activity has gradually developed into a strong collaborative link between the Faculty of Agriculture and the other agricultural organizations in the country including state departments/research institutes, private and non-governmental organizations, at present.
The agricultural education has now become a mainstay in the university system of Sri Lanka. Three new Faculties of Agriculture were added in the Affiliated University colleges established at Ruhuna (1978) and Batticaloa (1981). These Faculties of the affiliated University Colleges continued their academic programs under the close supervision of the academic staff of the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Peradeniya, and later upgraded to the level of Faculties of Agriculture in University of Ruhuna (1984), and Eastern University of Sri Lanka (1986), respectively. The Faculty of Agriculture at University of Jaffna was established in 1991. Further, two other University Collages affiliated to Faculty of Agriculture at Perdeniya were established (North-western Province in 1991 and Sabaragamuwa Province in 1996) to cater to the manpower training needs of the country for middle level technically qualified personnel in agriculture (diplomates). These two affiliated colleges provided 2 year diplomas, and were later upgraded to degree awarding faculties in the newly established Rajarata University (1996) and Sabaragamuwa University (1997), respectively, and a new Faculty of Agriculture was also established in Wayamba University of Sri Lanka in 1999. The curricula and the academic programs of these new faculties were nurtured by the experienced academic staff of the Faculty of Agriculture at Peradeniya.
With this significant contribution to strengthen the higher education in agriculture in the university system, the Faculty of Agriculture at University of Peradeniya also developed into a fully-fledged Faculty with eight departments of study, namely Agricultural Biology, Agricultural Economics and Business Management, Agricultural Engineering, Agricultural Extension, Animal Science, Crop Science, Food Science and Technology, and Soil Science. The curriculum of the B.Sc. Agriculture degree program was revised periodically to suit the changing needs of the agricultural sector and the transformations taking place in the global academic arena.
The latest revision of the curriculum of the B.Sc. degree program in Agriculture offered by the Faculty took place during 2004-2006 using a student-centred learning outcome based approach, resulting in the launching of a new 4-year (8 semesters) degree program on B.Sc. in Agricultural Technology and Management in 2006 (B.Sc. AgTech & Mgt), replacing the B.Sc. Agriculture degree that the Faculty offered in the past. The faculty has further expanded its horizons by introducing two new 4-year (8 semesters) degree program on B.Sc. in Food Science and Technology (B.Sc. FST), (2004) and B.Sc. in Animal Science & fisheries respectively.
Being the leading player in agricultural higher education in Sri Lanka, the Faculty of Agriculture at University of Peradeniya consists of 119 academic cadre and more 240 academic support staff to conduct the academic programs. Of the academic staff recruited, about 85% have been trained up to the Ph.D. level, which is an unparallel strength. The faculty also comprises of fully equipped laboratory facilities, training/research farms covering all major agro-ecological regions, the only Agricultural Biotechnology Centre (AgBC) of the country, Agriculture Education Unit (AEU), and Agribusiness Centre (AbC) as the outreach arm.
The annual intake of the Faculty is about 270 students under the normal intake through the UGC (200 for B.Sc. AgTech & Mgt, 20 for B.Sc. FST and 50 for B.SC. AS &F). The Faculty also admits adult students from the state and private sector organizations under special provisions admission (10 to the B.Sc. AgTech & Mgt., 2 to the B.Sc. FST and 5 to the AS & F). The Faculty also admits foreign students for all three degree programs according to the guidelines stipulated by the University Grants Commision (UGC). The total number of students admitted in a given year accounts for more than 30% of the total annual intake of the agriculture higher education in the Universities of Sri Lanka.