The Institute of Distance Education (IDE), University of Madras was started in the year 1981. It is now a dominant presence in the field of distance education in South India. The IDE, known earlier as ICE, has offered courses in the distance mode and in the Open University System. The system has been a boon to those who were unable to complete their schooling, housewives, working professionals and government servants in the conventional mode.
 
The standout features of IDE's course offerings are printed learning materials, personal contact programmes (PCP) and wide network of study centres in India and abroad. Over the last three years, IDE has prepared material in the self-learning format (SLM) and has received appreciation from many quarters. A pool of experienced teachers from various colleges handles PCP classes.
 
The IDE is headed by a Professor cum Director and presently has faculty strength of 19 belonging to different disciplines. The Institute offers 19 Undergraduate, 16 Postgraduate, 4 Postgraduate Science, 5 Professional, 7 M. Phil.,12 Certificate and 14 Diploma and 2 PG Diploma programmes. In addition, more than 150 Ph.Ds have so far been awarded under the supervision of the IDE faculty. There are 26 Spot Admission Centres in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. The institute has 30 Study Centres spread over the country in India and five Abroad. The Annual intake of students is about 50,000. The cumulative strength for the year 2006 - 07 was 148451.
 
Structure Of The Programmes
 
In the Regular Stream candidates with requisite educational qualification as adopted all over the country for Higher Education are admitted. For admission into the first degree course a pass in Higher Secondary / PUC / Intermediate / Pre-Degree Examination or equivalent examination is the required qualification as in the case of admission of candidates to affiliated colleges. The Open University System (OUS) introduced in 1985 is intended to provide educational opportunities to those who aspire for higher education without any basic qualification. And for admission under this scheme one must have completed 18 years of age as on 1st July. The candidate is subjected to the Entrance Test to make sure that he/she has the required literacy level to cope up with the degree course.
 
The Institute also offers PG courses in Arts, Science and Commerce as well as Professional Courses such as M.Lib.Sc, M.B.A., M.Sc. (I.T) and M.C.A. Both at the UG and PG levels there is a blend of conventional and innovative courses to strike a balance. The courses provide scope for learners to improve their potential to became suitable candidates for jobs. The Institute also offers courses in Indian Music at the Under Graduate and postgraduate levels thus promoting fine arts and Indian culture.
The IDE had earlier offered M.Phil programmes for seven disciplines viz, Tamil, English, History, Economics, Commerce, Public Administration & Political Science and Undergraduate programmes under Open University System till 2007.
 
At the Undergraduate level, the following courses are offered: B.A. (Tamil, English, Urdu, Historical Studies, Public Administration, Economics, Vaishnavism, Christian Studies), B.Litt.(Tamil Literature), B.Sc. (Mathematics, Geography, Psychology), B.Music, B.Com.(Commerce, Co-operation, Corporate Secretaryship, Bank Management), B.B.A.(Business Administration), B.C.A. (Computer Applications).
 
At the Postgraduate level, the following courses are offered: M.A. (Tamil, English, Urdu, Modern Arabic, Historical Studies, Political Science, Public Administration, Economics, Sociology, Christian Studies, Human Rights and Duties Education), M.Sc. (Mathematics, Geography, Psychology, Physics, Chemistry, Botany, Zoology), M.Music, M.Com.(Commerce).
 
The following Professional Courses are offered: M.C.A. (Computer Applications), M.Sc. IT (Information Technology) and M.B.A. (Business Administration), B.L.I.S. (Library and Information Science) and M.L.I.S. (Library and Information Science).
 
In addition, the following Certificate Courses are offered: Certificate Course in Library and Information Science, Spoken Tamil, Written Tamil, Police Administration, Medicinal Plants, Phytochemical Techniques, Plant Cell and Tissue Culture, Sanskrit, French, German, Computer Applications and E-Commerce.
 
In the past two years, University has been taking all possible steps to bring in Technology in the delivery of Education. Beginnings are in place for e-learning, Tele-Education and the like. An exclusive Tele-education - EDUSAT Centre is functioning at the institute.The University is also playing a leading role in the creation of networked Virtual University, the brainchild of His Excellency, the former President of India, Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam.
 
On the administrative side, improvements are constantly made. Ably supported by the Study and Spot Admission Centres, the institute has been providing good student support services. For more than a year now, students have been enjoying the facilities of touch screen information and the 12-hour Call Centre at the Central office. The Institute also facilitates the students who aspire to pursue their education abroad. In the planning stage are office automation, networking and teleconferencing.