Four universities will share almost a third of the record-breaking fund to renovate crumbling research facilities, it emerged this week.
The second Science Research Investment Fund will pour £1 billion - the largest ever government investment in science infrastructure - into UK institutions between 2004 and 2006, at the start of a new fund designed to clear the £3.2 billion infrastructure backlog by 2010.
Higher education minister Margaret Hodge said: "We cannot remain at the cutting edge of research if we are dependent on ageing and inadequate buildings and equipment. This funding will provide further crucial help in turning round years of under-investment."
Almost a third of the funding will be shared by Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial and University College London. The top 25 institutions receive almost three-quarters of the money, while new universities receive just 5 per cent.
In a departure from previous infrastructure funds, institutions will be allowed to spend some of their allocation (about 5 per cent or £50 million in total) on arts, humanities, language and design research facilities.
The money may be spent on refurbishing research buildings, replacing, renewing or upgrading equipment and replacing buildings. Universities would have to spend an estimated £350 million a year to stand still.
David Secher, director of research services at Cambridge University, welcomed the new funding.
But he echoed the concerns of many universities: "Cambridge is not getting enough funding overall. We are operating in deficit mode and we are only able to keep the deficit small by not adequately maintaining infrastructure."
Institutions must submit a list of proposed projects to their funding council by the end of May.