Centred around a national "universities week" this summer, the campaign aims to tell the "unsung success story" of higher education, debunking myths and showing the relevance of the academy's work to daily life, Universities UK explained.
It follows calls last year from David Lammy, the higher education minister, for the sector to "communicate its value" more effectively.
The event parallels the #loveHE campaign run by Times Higher Education (see related article - right).
Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of UUK, said the aim of the effort was "raising public awareness of the value of universities - the range and diversity of what they do".
"What we are trying to address is the public perception that perhaps doesn't always match the reality of what universities are," she said.
"Although we don't have any comprehensive assessments of public perception, the work that has been carried out has shown that the public generally isn't aware of the world-class quality of the universities on its doorstep. Often their information is out of date."
In all, 100 higher education institutions have already signed up to the campaign, alongside university mission groups, the University and College Union, the National Union of Students and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
From 14 to 20 June, under the title "Universities Week: What's the Big Idea?", institutions will be opening their "hidden treasures" to the public and holding events and debates. One is even planning to take its open day off-campus into the local shopping centre.
Ms Dandridge said she had been "overwhelmed" by the positive response to the initiative.
"I think there is wide acknowledgement that we have not been 'selling' ourselves sufficiently effectively, and the campaign seems to have struck a chord," she said.
The themes of the week will be teaching, business, research, personal experiences, culture and sport. The aim is to attract both local and national publicity.
UUK is looking for inspiring stories to support these themes and is asking for input from academics, support staff, students and alumni.