The Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS) was founded by Dr.Malcolm S Adiseshiah
and Mrs. Elizabeth Adiseshiah, in January 1971, shortly after Dr.Adiseshiah's retirement as Deputy Director-General of UNESCO.
In 1976 the Government of India through the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), New Delhi, sent a mission to study the possibility of developing MIDS into a national institute of social science research. On the recommendations of the mission the Institute was reconstituted as a National Institute in March 1977 under the joint sponsorship of the Government of India through the ICSSR and the Government of Tamil Nadu. The trustees gifted to the reconstituted National Institute its land and buildings, its library, furniture and equipment and a cash endowment. The Reserve Bank of India established a Chair in applied research in regional economics in the Institute in 1985.
The Reserve Bank of India established a Chair in applied research in regional economics in the Institute in 1985 initially for five years. In 1991 the RBI extended support to this unit on a continuing basis subject to periodic review. Since 1993 RBI has been granting fellowships to Ph D scholars. In 2002 the RBI converted its annual commitment to an endowment giving the Institute full autonomy to the unit.
- To undertake studies and research pertaining to development problems, with special reference to the agro-rural aspects of Tamil Nadu and the socially and economically backward sections of the population throughout the country.
- To conduct seminars and conferences on development issues concerning Tamil Nadu and the country at large.
- To foster inter-university co-operation among social scientists of the universities of the four southern states.
- To promote inter-disciplinary research, and disseminate information relating to the above activities.
- The research concerns of the faculty are wide ranging. MIDS has become a centre for critical thinking on development issues. The service of faculty members are sought by State and Central Government departments, autonomous agencies, universities and colleges, non-government and international organisations.
With a Governing Council as its apex body, and an Academic Council, the reconstituted Institute is structured in such a way as to ensure maximum autonomy to its functioning.
The Governing Council consists of the Chairperson, the Institute's Director as member-secretary, representatives of MIDS faculty, ICSSR, Tamil Nadu Government, and from the Universitites of the four Southern states, Trustees of the Institute, and co-opted social scientists, as members. It ordinarily meets once a year, while its Finance Committee and Executive Council meet twice a year.
The Academic Council consists of the Director as chairperson, and both external and internal members. All the professors of the Institute are its members; other faculty members and the Ph.D. scholars serve on it in rotation. Five reputed social scientists from other universities and institutes are members of the Academic Council. Each of them serve for three years. The Council meets twice a year to review, and provide guidelines on, the academic activities of the Institute.