Salem Government Arts College at Maravaneri area is the oldest higher education centre in Salem District. It was improved as an Anglo-Vernacular School in 1857 by A.J. Alexander Arbuthnot. In the same year, it was converted into district school (Zillah high school). Then 195 students studied in that school. The school was accommodated in a rented building till 1863 when it moved to its own building, constructed with funds rose partly by public subscription and partly by the Government grant. In 1864 the school sent its first batch of students to Madras University’s Matriculation Examination.

In March 1879, the school was upgraded and affiliated to Madras University. Seven students from this college attended First Arts Examination held in 1880-81. For about 75 years Salem Municipality had the privilege of managing and developing the higher educational institution in the district.  In 1944, the college was raised to the status of the first grade college. The new building was not sufficient to accommodate the increased strength of the students. Rathinasamy Pillai, the Municipal Chairman, played a prominent role in making the college to cope with the increased number of students. With great effort, he was able to construct a second building with the support of Salem people and with the subscriptions and donations received from the public and institutions. A second building had been built so as to accommodate about 1000 students. Hence during that period, the student strength of the college increased from 408 to 1008.

In 1 April, 1960 the college was taken by the Government and began to function under the Education Department of Tamil Nadu Government. In 1969, P.G. Courses in Maths, History and English had been introduced. In 1979, B.A. Degree course in Co-Operation had been introduced. In 1994-95, B.Sc. Degree course in Computer Science had been introduced. From the year 1999-2000 Examinations are conducted without internal assessment in semester system.

The much awaited centenary celebrations of the college took place on 19.11.98 owing to the genuine efforts taken by the honorable minister for Agriculture, Mr. S.Veerapandi Arumugam. The Minister for Agriculture presided over the function and honorable minister for education Prof. K.Anbazhagan laid the foundation stone for the centenary Building. He also gave felicitations and special address on the occasion.

The commencement of the construction of the first floor of the centenary building started with the Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Veerapandi S.Arumugam, initiating the work on 04.11.2000. The building was constructed within a short period and the honorable Chief. Minister for Tamil Nadu Dr. M. Karunanithi inaugurated the building on 04.11.2001.

In the year 2000 the NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council) visited our college and granted three star status. The department of Tamil started its Research venture by commencing M.Phil and Ph.D Full-time and Part-time programmes in 2001-2002.

From the year 2002-03, Botany – Vocational Biotechnology (E.M) Course has been conducted in the department of Botany with the monetary support of the UGC. Since 2003-04 M.Phil and Ph.D., both full – time and part-time, courses have been taught in the department of Economics. From the academic year 2003 – 04, under self-financing scheme B.B.A., M.Com. and M.A.(Co-Op) courses have commenced for the first time.

In the academic year 2004-05, some more self-financing courses like B.Sc.(Statistics & CA), BCA, AICTE approved MCA and M.Sc (Computer Science) started functioning . From the year 2005- 06, B.A. Co-Op (T.M), M.Sc. ( Stat. ) and M.Sc. Botany courses also were commenced under self-supporting scheme. In the same year English, Geology and History departments started offering M.Phil and Ph.D research programmes (Full –time and Part-time).

From 2008-09 Ph.D Full-time and Part-time research activities began in the department of Statistics. All self-financing courses started until 2005-06 were converted into regular courses by the Govt. of Tamil Nadu in the year 2006-07.
Representatives of the NAAC, appointed by the UGC reaccredited the college in the year 2006 and conferred B++ status.

A body of academicians appointed by the UGC to grant autonomy to college visited the college and offered autonomous status to our college in the year 2007-08 . From the commencement of autonomous status, the old method of examination was replaced by an alternative system with internal marks in semester system.

In accordance with the order of Government of Tamilnadu, shift system was introduced in the year 2007-08 and the second shift classes started functioning in departments like Maths, Computer Science, Tamil, English, Commerce, History and Co-Operation for the benefit of the students from the lower strata of society.

The college timings is subject to change as per Government orders. Accordingly, the college working hours for both shift I and Shift II are observed as follows:

Shift I : 9.00  pm   to 1.25  pm
Shift II : 1.30 pm to 5.30 pm