Five centres launched this week will boost the numbers of researchers in languages and area studies.
The aim of the £25 million language-based area studies initiative is to produce more academics who understand and speak the languages of Arabic-speaking countries, China, Japan and Eastern Europe, which have been deemed of cultural, political and economic importance to the UK.
Fifteen universities are involved in the centres, sharing expertise and investing in studentships and postdocs to encourage a new generation of researchers into area studies.
Victor King, lead researcher for the Centre for Chinese and Japanese Studies at Leeds and Sheffield universities, said: "This will allow a significant boost in posts."
Manchester University is a partner in three centres. Steve Parker, head of Manchester's School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures, said: "These centres signal a significant shift of resources to the North of England and Scotland."
Funding for five years will be provided by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Scottish Funding Council.
The centres are: Centre for the Advanced Study of the Arab World (Edinburgh, Manchester and Durham); British Interuniversity China Centre (Oxford, Manchester and Bristol); Centre for Central and East European Studies (Oxford, Manchester and Birmingham); Centre for China and Japan (Leeds and Sheffield); Centre for East European and Former Soviet Union Language-based Area Studies (Oxford, Birmingham and Manchester); Centre for Eastern Europe and Russia (Glasgow, St Andrew's, Aberdeen, Paisley, Strathclyde, Newcastle and Nottingham).