The Conservatives have vowed to pay students up to £2,000 to take up under-subscribed university courses such as chemistry, physics, engineering and foreign languages.
Michael Howard will make the announcement later today in a speech at Cambridge University on higher education.
He will say the Government has an obligation to protect the "core subjects on which our international excellence [depends]".
"Areas like maths, physics, engineering and chemistry are struggling to attract good students and some universities have even closed departments because of the lack of interest in doing such subjects," according to Howard.
The £2,000 would be available to students on their graduation, even if they have no debt.
Gordon Brown, speaking at the CBI conference earlier this week, put a premium on developing a high level of skills in the UK so the country could compete in a globalised market.