Sanskrit and Bengali was one of the departments with which the University of Dhaka started functioning in 1921. M.M. Haraprasad Shastri was the Professor and Head of the Department. Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah became the Head of the Department of Bengali when it was separated from Sanskrit in 1937. The Department of Bengali from 1970 onwards also offered courses in Linguistics until a separate Department of Linguistics was founded. The Department of Bengali offers a four-year B.A. (Honours)course and a one-year Master's course. It also provides M.Phil and Ph.D Programmes. A four-year semester system of teaching and letter grade system of evaluation has been introduced at the B.A. Honours level from the Academic year 2006-2007.

The B.A Honours consists of 8 semesters with 2 semesters in each year. The duration of each semester is 26 weeks. There are 28 one-unit (four credits) teaching courses for the B.A. Honours. A one-year semester system of teaching and letter grade system of evaluation is also in existence at the Masters level from the academic year 2006-2007.The one-year Masters programme is of two semesters, with duration of 26 weeks each. Eight one-unit (four credits) courses are to be taken at theMasters level including compulsory and optional courses. The M.Phil and Ph.D. programmes are normally of two and three year's duration respectively.

The M.Phil programme requires one year course work and one year research work. M.Phil and Ph.D. students must defend their theses successfully to obtain their degrees, and must have a minimum qualification before enrolment. The Department publishes Shahitya Patrika, a journal that is in its 45th year and enjoys a solid reputation in Bangladesh and West Bengal. The department also brings out other important research publications. Prescribed and recommended books and Journals are available in the seminar Library of the Department.