Academics should look into developing 'cyber campuses' to contain costs and improve efficiency, according to the University Grants Committee. The appeal came as the South China Morning Post reported yesterday that a controversial drive to cut university funding by up to $5 billion a year is set to be shelved in a government back-down, with total grants to the eight universities for 2001-04 capped at $38 billion. Committee secretary-general Nigel French said: 'The application of information technology would appear to offer opportunities to revamp cost structures and gain efficiencies, without sacrificing quality, through electronic storage of, and networked access to, library resources.' Mr French said courses delivered via the Web at local universities comprised only lecture notes that could be downloaded, administrative announcements or some staff and student pages. In America, the 'cyber campus' has become one of the fastest-growing sources of higher education. The Electronic Campus, one of the joint-university Internet-learning programmes has attracted more than 20,000 students to its 2,000 courses over the past two years in the southeastern United States alone. The idea of 'e-education' in Hong Kong was first raised in a 1996 committee report. At present, students from different universities are able to arrange inter-library loans via the desktop.