Science minister Lord Sainsbury will next Tuesday launch the Athena project, which is aimed at raising women's status in higher education. The project will focus mainly on women in science, engineering and technology.
It aims to achieve a 10 per cent rise in the number in academic posts at all levels in five years.
Funding councils and the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals are backing Athena with about Pounds 200,000 in the first year. It will seek further sponsorship from other organisations and industry to help spread examples of good practice, make annual awards, set up institutional audits and support research on barriers to women's progress, confidence-building and flexible working.
A key part of the project will be a register of all women working in higher education, their qualifications, career patterns, pay and research.
Members of the register will be able to network with other women and receive career help.
Julia Higgins, professor of polymer science at Imperial College and chair of the Athena committee, said: "We hope to offer support for those poised to go into senior roles and who do not have any other support mechanisms."