The University of Madras is one of the oldest in the country. It was established during the British time. The first ever demand for higher education in Madras Presidency was voiced forth in a public address to Lord John Elphinstone G.C.H., Governor of Madras signed by 70,000 native inhabitants. At the same time, Governor in Council was contemplating "some effective and liberal measures for the establishment of an improved system of national education". The University Board was constituted in January 1840 with Mr. George Norton as its President. This was the precursor of the present Presidency College, Chennai.
After the Wood’s Dispatch of 1854, the University of Madras, organized on the model of London University, was incorporated on 5 September 1857 by an Act of the Legislative Council of India.
The University of Madras progressed and expanded throughout the nineteenth century to span the whole of South India and subsequently gave birth to and nourished most of the Universities viz., Mysore University (1916), Osmania University (1918), Andhra University (1926), Annamalai University (1929), Travancore University (1937) presently Kerala University.
University of Madras is the mother of almost all the old Universities of southern India. The University is proud to have in its long list of distinguished alumni, two former presidents of India, Mr. Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy and Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. 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.