The University of Moratuwa Sri Lanka is an independent state university located at Katubedda, Moratuwa overlooking the picturesque Bolgoda Lake. It was established as the University of Moratuwa (UoM) on 22 December 1978 under the Universities Act No.16 of 1978 and operates under the general direction of the University Grants Commission. However, its origin can be traced back to the Government Technical School (GTS) which was established in Maradana, Colombo in 1893.

The GTS, changed its name to the Ceylon Technical College (CTC) in 1906 and in January 1933, CTC was reorganised and thereafter, prepared candidates for the external degrees in Engineering of the University of London and for the Associate Membership Examinations of the three major professional institutions (Civil, Electrical and Mechanical) in England. A Junior Technical Officers (JTO) course was also inaugurated at the CTC in the late 1940's.

Beginning of technical education at Katubedda took place in 1960 when the technician courses at the CTC were transferred to a new establishment called the Institute of Practical Technology (IPT) constructed at the present premises of the University as a gift from the people of Canada with the primary aim of providing full-time JTO courses for technicians of sub-professional grades.

In 1961, the Government of Ceylon (GoC) realised that an effective system of specialised education and training, capable of supplying the country with the necessary scientific and technical personnel, was a pre-requisite to achieve and sustain rapid development. The GoC, therefore, appointed a Commission of Inquiry on Technical Education. As engineering education at professional level was provided exclusively by the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Ceylon at that time, the Commission in its report of 1963 recommended the expansion of facilities for professional engineering education at Katubedda.

The Ceylon College of Technology (CCT) was thus established at Katubedda in 1966 which offered a practically oriented engineering diploma (Diploma in Technology, abbreviated to DipTech) equivalent to a degree which was developed and offered with the technical assistance of UNESCO. The CCT commenced with specialisations in Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, initially utilising the physical facilities available at the IPT. The IPT continued in the same premises with its full-time courses, but was amalgamated with the CCT in 1967 and the JTO course was restructured and named as the Technician's course. At the commencement of the third year of the DipTech programme, the Electrical Engineering stream was bifurcated to Electrical Engineering and Electronic & Telecommunication Engineering specialisations. The Department of Electronic & Telecommunication Engineering was thus formally established in 1969.

The CCT at Katubedda first earned University status, as the Katubedda Campus of the single University of Ceylon, on 15th February 1972. The Department of Architecture, then at Colombo, was transferred to Katubedda in the formation of this new Campus. The Katubedda Campus thus began with one faculty, that of Engineering and Architecture. The first President of the Campus was Dr.L.H.Sumanadasa who steered the progress of the Institution, was in fact the Principal of the IPT before it became the Katubedda Campus. When Ceylon became a Republic on 22nd May 1972, the corporate name of the single University was changed to the University of Sri Lanka. Consequently, the DipTech programme was upgraded to the BSc Engineering degree and all students from the first intake of DipTech became eligible for the degree. Further, the name of the Technicians course was changed to the National Diploma in Technology.

With the gaining of University status, the technical education programmes conducted at Katubedda Campus were expanded. The Department of Town & Country Planning was established within the Faculty of Engineering & Architecture in 1973. Further, in 1974, with the formation of a link-programme between the UoM and the University of Leeds in the UK, the School of Applied Science was instituted. Under this school, the Departments of Chemical Engineering, Material Science and Mining & Minerals Engineering were established. In 1975, a Computer Centre with a modest computer IBM 1130 was established within the Department of Electrical Engineering to serve the entire University. Furthermore, with the developments in Engineering Education at Katubedda, the first post-graduate programme commenced in the Department of Civil Engineering in 1976.

Further changes in the corporate structure and composition of tertiary education were effected by the Universities Act No. 16 of 1978. Under the provisions of Section 139(1) of this Act, the Katubedda Campus of the University of Sri Lanka acquired the status of an independent University with its present corporate name 'The University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka', with three Faculties of study, namely the Faculty of Engineering, the Faculty of Architecture and the Faculty of Physical and Applied Sciences.

In 1981, the Faculty of Physical and Applied Sciences was amalgamated with the Faculty of Engineering, and consequently the name of the Department of Materials Science was changed to the Department of Materials Engineering. As all the courses of study at Moratuwa were offered in the English medium, the University established a Department of Languages and Social Studies in 1977 to assist students enhance their language skills which was restructured as the English Language Teaching Centre (ELTC) in December 1983.

In 1983, the Department of Building Economics was added to the Faculty of Architecture and the Undergraduate programme leading to BSc in Quantity Surveying (Honours) degree commenced in 1985. In the same year, the Department of Civil Engineering was shifted to its own building complex at a site bordering the North-Eastern boundary of the University, fringed by the Bolgoda Lake.

Department of Textile Technology came into being as a fully fledged Department in 1985, with the launch of the BSc Engineering Degree Programme and the Department was shifted to its own fully equipped building in 1988. The Department of Computer Science & Engineering was established in 1985 in the Faculty of Engineering incorporating the Computer Centre already existed, and the first batch of students was enrolled in 1986.

In the 1990s, student accommodation and hostel facilities received the attention of the administration. New hostels were constructed and extensions to existing ones were done during the period 1991-1995. A girls' hostel was instituted in 1991. The university library which was scattered in different buildings with difficulties to cater to the increased intake of students was relocated in its spacious new building with enhanced facilities in 1995.

With further development, the Department of Management of Technology was established in 1998 in the Faculty of Engineering in response to a national need for the discipline of technology management. In 1998, the name of the Chemical Engineering Department was changed to Department of Chemical and Process Engineering to reflect the broader area of application of the field.

With the implementation of the Science and Technology Personnel Development Project funded by the Asian Development Bank in October 1998, all departments in the Faculty of Engineering commenced or recommenced Masters degree programmes by instruction and by research. The first PhD from the Faculty of Engineering was completed in May 1999. These developments in research could be considered as a major turning point for Moratuwa University to be considered as a 'fully-fledged' University.

In order to keep abreast with the development of engineering education, the courses of the Faculty of Engineering were converted to semester system from sessional examination system. The Engineering II stream (which consisted of a separate entry to Chemical Engineering, Materials Engineering and Mining & Mineral Engineering) was eliminated and students were instead taken to the University under the common “Engineering” category.

Arising of a perceived need to separate technical education at lower than degree level from the main university, the Institute of Technology University of Moratuwa (ITUM) was established in March 2000 to conduct the National Diploma in Technology course separately from the Faculty of Engineering, with the Ordinance for the same having been gazetted in August 2000.

In July 2000, the name of the Department of Mining and Mineral Engineering was changed to the Department of Earth Resources Engineering to reflect the changes in their scope. During the same time the 'Engineering Design Centre' was set up in the Faculty of Engineering to complement design related education of undergraduates and to provide engineering design and manufacture outreach services to the industry.

With the rapid expansion of Information Technology Industry, the country strongly felt the need to increase the production of qualified IT professionals by the higher educational institutions. The Faculty of Information Technology, the first ever faculty of this kind in the state university system, was thus established in June 2001 as the third faculty in the UoM with its first intake of 50 students in January 2002.

In 2001, Bachelor of Design was launched by the Department of Architecture while in November 2001, the Bachelor of Design in Fashion Design and Product Development course, conducted by the Department of Textile and Clothing Technology, was launched with technical assistance from the London College of Fashion of the University for the ARTs, London, to cater for a national need to create a value added apparel industry. The name of the Department of Textile Technology was subsequently changed to Textile and Clothing Technology to emphasise the equal importance given to clothing studies at the UoM.

The Department of Management of Technology moved to its new building in December 2001. The first MBA programme of the UoM, in the specialisation of Management of Technology, was inaugurated in November 2001. The next MBA in Information Technology commenced in November 2002 followed by MBA in Infrastructure in 2003 and MBA in Project Management in 2004. In April 2003, the Department of Electronic & Telecommunications Engineering moved to its new modern building from the earlier location in the Sumanadasa building.

The Department of Town & Country Planning which had been conducting only postgraduate studies in Town & Country Planning until year 2003 commenced its Honours Degree course in BSc in Town & Country Planning in 2003. The Department of Building Economics launched its second undergraduate programme in September 2005 leading to BSc in Facilities Management degree.

The latest addition to the Faculty of Engineering was the Department of Transport & Logistics Management in September 2005 as a national need with strong support from the Transport and Logistics industry. The Department now offers BSc in Transport & Logistics Management degree with an annual intake of 50 students.

In June 2009 the name of the Department of Materials Engineering was changed to Department of Materials Science and Engineering to reflect the importance of science in materials engineering. With further increase in student intake the University physical facilities were enhanced and a new Chemical Engineering building was opened in 2009, and a new Mechanical Engineering building was opened in April 2010.