New metropolitan universities have been the biggest winners under a shake-up in the way government access and hardship funds are distributed.
Statistics from the Department for Education and Skills show that universities such as Manchester Metropolitan and De Montfort get the biggest share of hardship funds and have seen significant increases in their allocations this year.
But not every university has benefited, with 12 - including top-flight institutions such as Nottingham and Imperial College - seeing their allocations reduced. Oxford suffered the biggest cut, down £46,483 to £579,448.
Changes to the funding system make it difficult to compare figures year-on-year, with the breakdown for £14.8 million worth of mature student bursaries in 2000-01 not available.
These bursaries have been superseded by new childcare packages including additional grants paid through local education authorities and access bursaries for those with children.
A spokeswoman for the DFES said: "Figures for bursaries year on year cannot therefore be directly compared since we are targeting this support at different groups of students."
The second largest recipient after Manchester Metropolitan was the University of Central Lancashire, which was this year allocated nearly £1.5 million for students in hardship. John Dunn, head of the advisory and counselling centre, said 60 per cent of the university's intake was mature students.
A spokesman for the Higher Education Funding Council for England said the allocations had been changed to reflect demand. He added: "We have made sure that no institution gets less than 90 per cent of what it got in 2000-01."
But Mr Dunn called on the government to streamline the system, saying: "It has become very complex. We are hoping for a little bit more simplification next year."
The top ten recipients in 2001-02 (£ million):
- Manchester Metropolitan 1.61
- Central Lancashire 1.49
- Middlesex 1.48
- De Montfort 1.42
- Wolverhampton 1.35
- South Bank 1.34
- Sheffield Hallam 1.33
- North London 1.21
- Plymouth 1.14
- East London 1.12