University funders want to spend #163;30 million a year to widen access to higher education for working-class students and those with disabilities.
Further education colleges will also benefit from the plans, which include funding for innovative partnerships to encourage more students into universities.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England is consulting on the plan but the cash depends on future Government spending proposals.
Ethnic minorities - with the exception of young black men and Muslim women - are now well-represented in HE. But disabled students are under-represented, while undergraduates' postcodes shows students are 12 times more likely to be from affluent neighbourhoods than from the poorest.
Opponents of tuition fees have also highlighted their potential impact on working-class students. Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett agreed to monitor the effect in return for getting fees through the House of Lords.
HEFCE says funding will reward good practice and recognise the cost of both recruiting and retaining students from non-traditional backgrounds.
A #163;2m purse was created last year for special programmes such as partnerships with further education colleges, summer schools, access courses and other "innovative" schemes to widen access. That will be doubled next year.
A second #163;30m pot is also planned to raise the standard of teaching and learning in higher education.