Periyar University was formed in1997. The University was formed to cater the educational needs of the people in Salem, Namakkal and Dharmapuri districts. The University is one among those recognized by University Grants Commission for receiving grants. It is a member of Association of Indian Universities and the Association of Commonwealth Universities.
Periyar University has introduced area specific courses on thrust areas considering the needs and expectations of the society and industry. It is planning to introduce new demand-driven courses and expand teaching, research, training, consultancy and extension activities. Presently, it offers undergraduate, postgraduate, and research courses in Bio-Chemistry, Tamil, English, Computer Applications, Commerce, Computer Science, Economics, Food Science, Geology, Mathematics, and Management. The candidates should have completed 10+2+3 years of study before admission to the PG courses.
Periyar Institute of Distance Education [PRIDE] has been functioning from the year 2001-2002. A total of 24 study centers including Periyar University have been established for PRIDE. Among the study centers, one at Chennai and one at Bangalore are earmarked as Regional Study Centers. The Periyar University has also introduced its off Campus regular academic programs from the academic year 2005 - 06 through PRIDE.
The National Service Scheme (NSS) of the Periyar University has 110 Units in 35 colleges with 11,000 volunteers. NSS volunteers are involved in literacy programs, health and hygiene, community services, village re-construction, mass tree planting, environmental protection and social awareness programs. The Red Ribbon Club of Periyar University has been formed to create awareness among the youth about HIV and AIDS.