The Department of Physics of the University of Colombo is the oldest and one of the most prestigious physics departments in the university system of Sri Lanka. It was established in 1921 under the then University College affiliated to the University of London. Later it became the Department of Physics of the former University of Ceylon when it was established in 1942. While focusing on undergraduate teaching with a blend of carefully developed theory and laboratory courses, the department has also earned a high reputation for its popular postgraduate programs and external degree program, skills training programs and various professional services extended to both the public and private sectors. The department has established two units – Centre for Instrument Development (CID) and Physics Education Unit – for providing services to the local industry and school education, and for conducting research relevant to the development of the country. The facilities of the department include two general physics laboratories, two computer laboratories, one electronics laboratory and a fully equipped mechanical workshop.
Throughout the past decades it has played a pioneering role in the training of physicists and in the development of physics education and research in the country. Today it continues to be at the forefront in such endeavors. A large number of physics graduates, produced by the department, hold high positions in both academic and professional institutes throughout the world.
The department offers physics courses for the first, second and third year general degree programs, where the total number of students exceeds over 400. The department also conducts dedicated 4-year degree programs specialized in Physics, Engineering Physics, and Computational Physics. These programs have been designed to provide students with an up-to-date knowledge in the subject area and soft skills. The students following the special degree programs are well equipped to continue their education at postgraduate level or to be employed in the industry. Every academic year, 30 students are selected on a competitive basis to follow the special degree programs. In 2016, the department introduced a new 4-year honours degree program in IT and Electronics focusing mainly on the local industry.
Apart from MPhil and PhD research programs, the department offers two MSc programs, namely, MSc in Applied Electronics and MSc in Physics Education.
The Department offers a wide range of services and consultancies to the state and private sector organization. The main areas include lightning protection, Industrial automation, thin film coating, high temperature treatments, and construction of school laboratory equipment. In addition, the department trains school students for the International and Asian Physics Olympiad, International Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad and Junior Science Olympiad Competitions.