The Annamalai University owes its existence to the wisdom, benefaction and philanthropy of a far-sighted visionary- Dr. Rajah Sir Annamalai Chettiar of Chettinad. As early as 1920, he founded Sri Minakshi College in Chidambaram, a great pilgrimage centre and also a center for South Indian traditional culture and learning. In 1928, the Annamalai University Act was passed and Sri Minakshi College paved the way for the establishment of Annamalai University.
The Directorate of Distance Education established in 1979 offers four hundred and one different programmes of study under the Regular Stream. It is credited with the largest enrollment in India and is well equipped with computer and other infrastructure, adequate teaching faculty and administrative set-up of its own, study centers, computer training centers, etc.,