The English Language Teaching Unit (ELTU) of the University of Colombo offers an English programme for the students doing the LL.B. Degree programme in the Faculty of Law throughout the four years of the degree programme. The course is compulsory for all students who do not show the required level of competence in English upon entering the University.  Lessons used in the programme comprise the four major skills in English, namely, speaking, listening, reading and writing. In addition, students will be equipped with a comprehensive knowledge of grammar.

All new entrants to the University are required to sit for the Placement Test in English conducted by the ELTU. The purpose of this test is to place students in the appropriate level of English competency. The placement test paper consists of four sections with each corresponding to the four proficiency levels. Those who score more than 50% for all four sections are exempted from the Proficiency Course in English. It is mandatory for the students to sit for the placement test so that they can be placed in a class appropriate for their proficiency level.

The students are required to follow the Proficiency Course in English of the level into which they have been grouped throughout the academic year. They can move on to the next level upon the successful completion of the end-of-year examination. Students who do not successfully complete a proficiency level in a particular academic year may progress to the next proficiency level, but they are required to complete that level before they finish their degree program.

  • Completing the Proficiency Course in English program is a prerequisite to obtain the LL.B. degree.
  • At the end of the academic year, students have to sit for the end-of-year written examination paper, which carries 70 marks.

Students have to face two assignments, which carry 15 marks each. A written assignment is held at the end of the first semester and an oral assignment is held at the end of the second semester.

All first year undergraduates offering English for the examination, regardless of the level into which they have been grouped, must also sit for the Compulsory Grammar paper in English. 50% of the Compulsory Grammar paper is set at the level I standard. Students are required to score a minimum of 50 marks to pass the compulsory grammar paper.  It is mandatory for all students other than the exempted students    to pass the Compulsory Grammar Paper and the relevant level papers in order to obtain the LL.B. Degree. 

In addition to the Proficiency Course teaching, students can use the Self Access Centre of the ELTU where they can study independently and improve their English language skills. Facilities available in the Self Access Centre include developing reading, writing, grammar and vocabulary through self-study packs, reference books, magazines, newspapers; developing listening skills through computer-aided language learning, movies, songs and audio material; developing speaking abilities through group and pair work with peers, work cards and discussions with facilitators.

All students following the Proficiency Course in English are required to have 70% attendance in order to be eligible to sit for the final examination.

Role of English in Learning Law

The Faculty of Law provides for teaching in three languages – Sinhala, Tamil and English. Upon entering the Faculty, students can choose the medium of instruction, subject to passing a competence test. It is one of the few law schools in the world to teach in three languages. Even in countries such as Canada, law is taught only in two languages – English and French.

Today, the Faculty of Law requires prospective law students to show a particular level of competence in English to enter the Faculty. It is not unusual to demand a competency in a language to enter a Faculty. It should be remembered that until 1968, prospective law students had to show a competence in Latin to gain entry to the Law Faculty.

Until the early 1970s, law was taught entirely in English. However, as a result of a policy decision taken by the then Government, legal education became available in all three languages. The Faculty, however, has always emphasized the importance of developing proficiency in English among its undergraduates. The importance of English to the study of law cannot be over-emphasised. Some of the reasons are given below:

Although instruction is offered in all three languages, it is vital that students be proficient in English as approximately 95% of all legal materials – cases, legislation, textbooks and journals – are available only in English.

The Faculty promotes independent study and the ability to think independently and critically. Law undergraduates must, therefore, have the capacity to read widely, and understand and reflect upon the prescribed legal materials, which are mostly in English.

The Faculty also promotes the comparative study of the law. Law undergraduates are exposed to trends and legal ideas from other countries. Since this comparative material is available exclusively in English, undergraduates not proficient in English would be at a disadvantage.

English is also important for accessing an increasing number of materials available on the Internet and the World Wide Web. Although legal education has been offered in Sinhala and Tamil for many years, several aspects of the legal system in the courts function only in English.

Though in the lower court proceedings are conducted mainly in Sinhala or Tamil, the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal function entirely in English. Submissions and pleadings are tendered in English and arguments are made in English and judgments are also delivered in English.

In addition, those who wish to pursue postgraduate study, either in Sri Lanka or abroad will be required to be proficient in English as these courses are conducted entirely in English. Further, it is necessary to write all dissertations for higher degrees in law in English.