Details of the cash reward universities will receive for attracting students from under-represented groups were announced by the Higher Education Funding Council for England this week.
The Pounds 50 million-a-year package will give extra from next academic year to universities that enrol disabled, mature and students from poor backgrounds.
They will receive a 5 per cent premium for every student they enrol from a poor background, decided on the basis of the postcode of their family home.
HEFCE will also give extra for each disabled student. The level of the premium has yet to be set.
The funding council will extend the allowance for each full-time mature student to cover each of the three years of study, rather than just the first year as happens at present. This extra cash will be allocated from next academic year.
Bahram Bekhradnia, the council's policy director, said: "HEFCE thinks that access is important, but as important is the student experience - their success, completion or non-completion.
"Research has shown that students from poor backgrounds are more prone to non-completion. We hope that this money will help to provide additional help and support to disadvantaged students."
There will also be special funding initiatives to develop partnerships between higher education, further education, schools and community organisations.
Invitations to bid will be issued in April or May.