The Central Institute of English was the brainchild of the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. CIE, as it was called then, was set up in 1958 in Hyderabad to train teachers of English. In April 1972, the Institute broadened its scope to include the major foreign languages, and was renamed the Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages. CIE became CIEFL, and in July 1973 in recognition of its high standards of excellence, the University Grants Commission accorded the Institute the status of a deemed university.
With the introduction of the Department of Correspondence Courses in 1974 , language teachers, both English and foreign languages, had access to many courses through the distance mode. In 2000, the CIEFL shed its 'training institute' avatar, and for the first time began to offer M.A programmes in English Literature, English Language Teaching, Cultural Studies, Linguistics and Phonetics, and Media and Communication. Seven years later, in 2007, thanks to an Act of Parliament, the Institute affectionately called 'seefl' by many became 'iifl'.