Some universities have seen a final rush of donations as a three-year government programme to match private gifts came to an end.
Since the beginning of the £200 million matched funding scheme, which coincided with the start of the global financial crisis, the number of donors to UK universities has risen steadily, although the amount of new funds pledged has fallen.
Joanna Motion, vice-president of international operations for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, said a number of institutions "have used the fact that the finishing line was in sight to convey a sense of urgency to donors and supporters".
Last week, London South Bank University accepted its largest donation ever, with manufacturing millionaire Nathu Puri pledging £1 million to foster enterprise among engineers.
Michael Simmons, the university's director of development, said that half this amount had been matched by the Higher Education Funding Council for England scheme.
The approaching end of the scheme on 31 July had spurred the donation, he said. "There's a surge at the end because people say: 'We'll do it by the end of July.' I'm sure universities have received a lot of money in the last weeks."
The end of the scheme this week coincided with an announcement by the University of Exeter that it had reached a target to raise £23 million a year earlier than expected.
Beginning in August 2008, the scheme allowed universities to opt for different tiers, in which gifts were matched pound for pound up to a certain level, or at a rate of £1 for every £2, or £1 for every £3, at higher total thresholds.
Figures for 2010-11, the final year of the scheme, are yet to be compiled, but it has coincided with a steady growth in the number of donors, from 145,500 in 2007-08, before the scheme started, to 185,000 in 2009-10.
Yet the amount of new funds pledged, which does not include the matched funding, fell from £676 million in 2007-08 to £548 million the following year, before recovering to £600 million in 2009-10.
The amount of cash universities have received each year - as opposed to new pledges, which can be spread over several years - has grown, however, up from £444 million in 2007-08 to £506 million in 2009-10.
Chris Cox, chair of the Ross Group of development directors, said it would not be fair to compare donations before and after the scheme because "the world economy started to collapse almost the month it began".
The biggest beneficiaries had been universities without established fundraising programmes, he added.
Half the new funds raised in 2009-10 went to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, with just over a fifth going to the rest of the Russell Group universities.
Yet since the scheme started, universities outside the Russell Group have reported higher levels of giving, albeit from a low base.
In 2007-08, Russell Group universities secured £489.2 million of new gifts, but by 2009-10 this had fallen to £436.8 million, a drop of 10.7 per cent.
In contrast, over the same time period, pledges to 1994 Group institutions grew by 12.1 per cent to £43.4 million and new funds to University Alliance institutions were up 21.8 per cent to £16.2 million, although Million+ universities saw pledges drop 39.3 per cent to £8.2 million.