In total, UK institutions were given £774 million in new philanthropic funds in 2011-12, up 14% on the year before, according to the latest annual Ross-Case survey.
This includes money raised through donations, pledges, legacies and other fundraising.
The study, which looks at philanthropic donations to higher education, found that rising numbers of former students (alumni) and other individuals are giving financial gifts.
Overall, almost 170,000 alumni made a donation in 2011-12, up 5% from the year before, and non-alumni donors rose in number by around 11% to almost 44,000, the survey found.
Despite the overall rises, the study found stark differences between universities. The average level of new funds secured and cash income received by individual universities fell in 2011-12.
Around two-fifths of institutions (39%) saw an increase in new funds and almost a third saw an increase in cash income (31%), but around a quarter (27%) saw more than a 50% fall in new philanthropic funding.
"As giving to higher education grows, we need to ensure institutions are supported in developing this important stream of income," she said.
"Analysis and sharing of best practice will be key to helping more and more universities reach their full fundraising potential."