The Higher Education Funding Council for England confirmed this week that it will continue to fund emerging areas of research until 2008-09 at roughly £20 million a year.
Hefce's capability fund covers seven fledgling research areas, including nursing, art and design, social work and sports-related studies. This year, some £21.6 million was allocated to university departments in these fields that gained a rating of 3a or 3b in the last research assessment exercise.
Rama Thirunamachandran, Hefce's research and knowledge-transfer director, said the continued funding would help institutions to continue to build and maintain a healthy research base in these subjects in the long term.
"This is about subjects that are less well-established in research terms but not entirely new disciplines. We did a review of research in the departments receiving this funding and found that there had been much good progress.
"The board agreed that all seven subjects should continue to be funded in all depart-ments," he said.
The seven subjects and the university departments the money is distributed to will remain unchanged. Allocations will be announced in the council's March grant letter, which will give details of the funding to institutions.
Institutions will then have to provide strategies for the further three years of funding they will receive.
The funding council intends to evaluate the scheme in 2009.
Hefce has also earmarked an additional £10 million to supplement the previously agreed £15 million to build research capacity in subjects the Government deemed strategically significant or those vulnerable to closure. The money will help to fund joint initiatives with the research councils and other funders such as Pfizer.
"The board agreed that this was a sensible way to proceed and it earmarked an extra £10 million, which allows us to do further work on areas such as languages, statistics and nanotechnology as and when it is needed over the next three or four years," Mr Thirunamachandran said.