Lloyds Banking Group is launching an undergraduate scholarship programme worth more than £12,000 in awards and paid work for students from lower-income families.
The Lloyds Scholars scheme includes fixed bursaries of £1,000 a year, variable awards based on exam results, and two stints of summer work worth £2,800 each.
It also offers students mentoring with senior Lloyds employees, activities to improve employment opportunities and the prospect of a job at the bank on graduation.
In return, students will be required to do at least 100 hours of local voluntary work and to promote Lloyds Scholars in schools to future undergraduates.
Lloyds said that unlike many student bursary schemes, graduates were under no obligation to join the bank at the end of their course.
Lloyds is launching a pilot of the programme on Saturday for 15 students preparing for their second year at Sheffield University, with another the same size planned for 30 June at Bristol University. The scheme will be extended to other top universities later this year ahead of the 2012 student intake.
The bank's promotion of its contribution to Britain's economic and social fabric comes as it lobbies against the Independent Commission on Banking's (ICB) demand that it sells more branches than the 632 it was forced to put on the block last Friday.
Britain's biggest retail bank won rare praise from Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, last week for taking small-business lending seriously under the Project Merlin agreement with the Government. The Chancellor will decide whether to accept the ICB's recommendation in September.
The scholarship programme is a pet project of Antonio Horta-Osorio, the bank's chief executive, who joined in March.
Mr Horta-Osorio said: "Lloyds Scholars is a key part of our commitment to invest in the long-term economic future of the UK. We have developed the programme to give undergraduates all-round professional and vocational experience. We will also encourageour scholars to volunteer in their local communities during the academic year to support the group's wider commitment to support communities."
To qualify, students must come from a household with income below £25,000 and have the equivalent of two As and a B at A level. They also have to complete an assessment by the bank.