Any institution that wants to cut languages in future will have to alert funding bosses before any decision is made.
The Scottish Funding Council - the body that distributes public funding to higher education - would then assess whether the closure was detrimental to the range of languages taught in Scotland.
The council could also look at other issues, such as the importance of a subject to Scotland's economic future.
Where a closure was deemed detrimental, the council would then seek to broker a solution with the university or universities involved to safeguard future provision.
However, the move falls short of calls for targeted funding by campaigners for minority languages, including Czech-born British playwright Sir Tom Stoppard, who backed a recent petition to the Scottish Parliament on the issue.
The new measure is included in guidance to universities on so-called outcome agreements that detail what is expected of the higher education sector in return for its public funding of more than £1 billion.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Funding Council said the move was a recognition of the value of language learning and the Scottish Government's ambitions to promote it from school to degree-level.
"We are confident the university sector currently offers a diverse range of language studies that is responsive to student demand," she said.
"We have asked universities to identify any changes in this demand, or changes they propose to make to language provision, so we can assess any potential impact on language learning or teaching."
However, the Universities and Colleges Union said only protected funding would ensure the future of languages.
"We believe the Scottish Funding Council should ensure there is a coherent course provision across Scotland, particularly in minority subjects," said a spokesman.
"We therefore welcome the obligation on institutions to inform the council over major changes in foreign language provision and hope this will protect minority language teaching in Scotland.
"However, we have always supported protecting provision and if you want to protect provision then funding should be maintained."
Hugh McMahon, former Labour MEP and a recent campaigner on languages, said: "It is a step forward, but protected funding, as they have in England and Wales, is the only long-term solution that will make a difference."
Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, stressed the importance of the Scottish Funding Council working with institutions when discussing provision.
"Universities are autonomous institutions and have the freedom to decide what subjects to deliver according to their own mission, strengths and demand," he said.
"It is possible to balance this autonomy with the need to take an overview of subjects delivered across Scotland to ensure a breadth of provision.
"To get this balance right the council will need to work with universities, not against them, and we are hopeful this will be the case in the outcome agreements."
The future of modern languages in school and university sectors has become a crucial battleground in recent years.
Falling numbers of pupils studying modern languages at Higher level has led to a decline in interest in some courses at university.
However, institutions, including Glasgow and Strathclyde, have been criticised over plans to reduce language staff and scale back some provision in recent years.
The rows led to a 3000-signature petition being handed to the Scottish Parliament by Sir Tom demanding protected funds for the promotion of "vulnerable" minority languages.
Under a section on the importance of offering coherent provision, the Scottish Funding Council guidance states institutions should "identify any significant changes in demand for modern language provision, together with any intentions to make significant changes to their portfolio of modern foreign language provision".