The Arts and Humanities Research Board has invited academics to make a case for ring-fenced funding to support doctoral studentships in particular subject areas.
The AHRB said that up to six studentships would be made available annually, they would last for three years, cover five subject areas and would be selected from proposals made before the September 12 deadline.
It said it expected that proposals would be backed by subject and professional associations, learned societies, institutions and other organisations that would benefit from researchers trained in the discipline.
The move follows the AHRB's review of postgraduate programmes, which found that the system of awarding grants on the basis of demand left little scope for providing help for disciplines considered to be of strategic importance.
A spokesman said that the board was not expecting proposals from every arts and humanities area it covered, but only from areas where more studentships could be shown to make a significant impact over the next five to ten years.
He said: "Many areas will be either too broad or too narrow for this number of studentships to make a difference."
Dance academics are hoping that their discipline or some aspect of it will be among those chosen.
Jo Butterworth, chair of the Standing Conference on Dance in Higher Education, told The THES: "This is incredibly important to us because there has been limited availability of funding for PhD work in dance.
"The research assessment exercise has identified dance as an area of growth, and the funding council has said it needs to be supported, so we think we have a strong case."
The selected areas will be supported through the next three postgraduate competitions from next year, and they will be announced in December.