The Public Petition dated 11-11-1839 initiated the establishment of Madras University. It was in January 1840 with Mr.George Norton as its President, that the University Board was constituted. In 1854 after a lapse of 14 years, the Government of India formulated a systematic educational policy for India and as a sequel to this on 5th September 1857 by an Act of Legislative Council of India, the University was established. The University was organised in the model of London University.
Madras University is the mother of almost all the old Universities of south India. The University area of jurisdiction has been confined to three districts of Tamil Nadu in recent years. This is consequent to establishment of various universities in the State and demarcation of the University territories. This University has been growing from strength to strength while widening its teaching and research activities.
The Vice-Chancellor who is appointed for a term is the Principal Executive Officer. The Registrar of the University, who is the Secretary of the Syndicate, is the custodian of all the records and Chief Administrator of the university. Yet another function, the examinations of the University, is managed by Office of the Controller of Examinations.
The University imparts both Under Graduate and Post Graduate Education through the Affiliated Institutions which are spread over the districts of Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kancheepuram. Apart from teaching, research activities in Arts, Humanities, Science, Management and Technology shpae the academic tenor of the University. A number of institutions affiliated to Madras University concentrate on research activities offeringe Ph.D., Programmes in their respective field of specialisation.
The University also offers teaching and research programmes in its four campuses. The 68 University Departments of study and research are spread over four campuses organised into 18 Schools each of which offer Post Graduate Courses in respective specialisation, part time and full time Ph.D. Programmes, Diploma and Certificate Programmes.
Assessing the need for educating a large number of people in the country, the University offers both Under Graduate and Post Graduate programmes through the Institute of Distance Education. The Institute is popularly called IDE of Madras University. Some of the courses offered by IDE has no parallel in this country to name a few
The University has been accredited by National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) with the five star rating first, and later with an A rating. The UGC has recognised the University as one of the centres for "potential for excellence" in the country.