An independent charity is being set up to raise money for cash-strapped students.
More than 100 student unions are expected to sign up to Uniaid, a foundation raising money for student support services. The foundation expects to collect hundreds of thousands of pounds in its first week of events this autumn.
Forty-nine student unions are already committed, including University College London and the universities of Reading, Bristol and Bath.
Emily Latham, Uniaid's event manager, said: "We expect an average of £1,000 to be raised by each university involved in the project.
"There are 3.5 million students in Britain. If each student raised £1 for Uniaid, £3.5 million pounds would be raised."
A week of action is planned for the start of the new term. It will include a world record attempt for the longest DJ dance relay. Money raised by students through sponsorship will go locally to student union welfare departments.
Uniaid is also trying to raise money centrally through commercial sponsorship, and it has set an initial target of a quarter of a million pounds. This money will go towards a hardship fund that students will be able to apply to, with a committee assessing applications. Several major companies have been approached to donate money.
Ms Latham said: "The Uniaid foundation has a target of £250,000 in its first year. These funds will be channelled into nationwide welfare and education initiatives on a needs-tested basis."
A spokeswoman for the National Union of Students said raising money for student union welfare services was "a brilliant idea". But she said unions were hard up because their block grants were being squeezed. She added:
"The NUS would hope that the government would look into funding such projects."