Universities and colleges in England are spending more on trying to help students from low-income households and other under-represented groups gain places on degree courses, according to a new report.
Spending on "outreach" activities such as summer schools and master classes to help pupils improve GCSE and A-level grades rose by 15% last year to £45.7 million, up on £39.6m in 2009/10, a report by the Office for Fair Access (Offa) said.
The monitoring body said overall spending on measures to help students from less advantaged households and other under-represented groups such as those with disabilities rose to £424.2m last year compared to £403.7m in 2009/10, the Press Association reported.
The report, issued jointly with the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) said £378.1m was spent on bursaries and scholarships for students from lower-income and other under-represented groups, up from £363.5m in 2009/10.
A total of 432,000 students from lower-income backgrounds - those from households with an income below £50,020 - and other under-represented groups received a bursary or scholarship in 2010/11 compared to 413,000 in 2009/10.
Of those receiving bursaries or scholarships, almost three quarters, or 74.1%, were from the lowest income group, or those from households with an income of less than £25,000.
The report surveyed 124 universities and higher education colleges and 60 further education colleges with higher education provision. The total higher fee income was £1.74 billion, up from £1.6bn in 2009/10.
Offa said the rise in income was driven by increased numbers of students and a hike in the maximum fee that institutions are allowed to charge from £3,225 in 2009/10 to £3,290 in 2010/11.
The monitoring report is the second to be published jointly with the HEFCE and comes as the maximum tuition fee is set to rise to £9,000 in 2012/13.
Sir Martin Harris, director of Fair Access to Higher Education, said in a foreword to the report: "Overall, we are satisfied that universities and colleges made progress against the targets they set themselves for 2010-11.
"We are particularly pleased with the progress made against outreach targets.
"This is because we believe that sustained, targeted outreach is key to sustaining and improving fair access - it's why we have asked for a greater focus on outreach, including collaborative outreach, in access agreements for 2012-13 and future years."