About 500,000 undergraduates, half the total, could benefit, paid for by the pound;15 billion three-year increase in education funding, announced by Chancellor Gordon Brown last month.
Students from families with an income of less than pound;13,000 a year would receive the full grant. There would be a sliding scale to about pound;5 a week. Those from families earning more than pound;30,000 would get nothing.
The higher education maintenance allowance plan could come into effect within three years. It is an extension of the educational maintenance allowance for 16 to 18-year-olds which has been piloted in 55 areas. Students are now leaving higher education with average debts of pound;12,000.