Tertiary institutes seeking funds to develop new areas of research or teaching have been told they must wait indefinitely. The University Grants Committee has deferred consideration of specific proposals from institutes to develop 'areas of excellence'. The committee said it first needed to know exactly how much the Government was prepared to spend on the new scheme. It also had to decide how to process requests before considering proposals. The funding will be made on a competitive basis, rather than being evenly distributed among all tertiary institutes. At least $9 million will be available for the institutes to develop their area of excellence, saved by cutting the cost of educating each student. The final amount has yet to be fixed. A source said some institutions had submitted proposals to the committee to request specific funding for development of particular areas of excellence. But the committee concluded at its latest meeting with heads of the eight government-funded institutes that 'it would be more equitable to make applications for funding open to all institutions at the same time'. The committee said the allocation would be better made 'on a competitive basis rather than considering requests individually on an ad hoc basis'. City University has urged the committee not to focus solely on research in the consideration of potential areas of excellence. Hong Kong University said money should be provided as 'seed funding' for the development of inter-disciplinary and inter-institutional centres. The committee is planning to prepare a paper on the development and funding of areas of excellence as a consultation document before the universities and the committee meet to discuss it again in August. It hopes individual universities will have more space and resources to develop a specialised area to meet demand in the 21st century. The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, for instance, has said it hopes to spend more resources on accountancy and construction.