The Northwest, Yorkshire and Humberside and the West Midlands have won the lion's share of the extra cash to widen participation in higher education.
The regions grabbed 42 per cent of the Pounds 1.5 million special fund for widening participation allocated by the Higher Education Funding Council for England this year.
Yorkshire and Humberside received a bumper Pounds 210,000 for a single initiative - to bring together sub-regional partnerships to produce a region led strategy to widen participation. All 14 higher education institutions in the region plus the Open University are taking part.
Dick Taylor of the University of Leeds, who is leading the initiative, said: "We are working closely to do an audit and map of higher education institutions in terms of widening participation. We want to know not only about good practice but what the barriers to participation are."
"Our region is rich in the diversity of its higher education," he added.
"We aim to devise performance indicators related to mission statements.
There will also be emphasis on partnerships to make the system more responsive to all potential students."
The Yorkshire and Humberside collaboration will produce a report and strategic plan by the end of the year. Professor Taylor hopes to gain more money from next year. "We understood that this fund would be relatively modest for this year but building up thereafter," he said.
Other regional allocations were shared between a series of smaller projects. The cash for the West Midlands includes funding for a project based at the Westhill College of Higher Education in Birmingham that will investigate the demand for single-sex higher education among Muslim women.