The Arts and Humanities Re-earch Board is setting up research centres across the United Kingdom, kicking off with up to 15 in 2000-01.
Michael Jubb, director of the AHRB, said the move will help to encourage the development of a vibrant research culture across the arts and humanities. Details are still being thrashed out,but the board has earmarked Pounds 3.5 million for the first tranche of centres.
The national nature of the scheme has been made possible through the involvement of all three higher education funding councils and Northern Ireland's education department in helping to fund the programme.
Bids are invited from institutions and will be channelled through the AHRB's eight new subject panels. Mr Jubb said: "Applicants will have to explain to panels why the work they plan to carry out will be of strategic importance for the subject as a whole."
Mr Jubb said that the board intended to look for excellence across all of the arts and humanities. "The prime reason for making any awards will be that the application is of the highest quality. We will be setting up 12 to 15 centres in the first instance, after which we will take stock. There will be further rounds," he said.
The AHRB's eight subject panels are: classics, ancient history and archaeology; visual art and media; English language and literature; medieval and modern history; modern languages; librarianship, archives and information science; music and performing arts; and philosophy, religious studies and law.