Chief Executive of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) Tom Boland has issued a fresh warning to the Government over funding for third level education.
The HEA is currently preparing a report on the issue of third level funding which is set to go before the Department of Education later in the summer.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn ruled out the re-introduction of third level fees before last year's general election, but students are already facing rising registration fees in colleges around the country.
Speaking today Mr Boland said the €1.2bn in funding from taxation will not be enough to cover the cost of the third level sector in the next few years.
"Given the scale of the demand, given the cost, and given the likely state of the public finances even in two, three or five years' time it is unlikely that we will be able to cover the cost of higher education completely from taxation," he said.
"If we want - and I believe we do want, and we do need - a high-quality higher education system… then we have to find some other way of resourcing (it)."
Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Seán Crowe has meanwhile expressed alarm over the possible reintroduction of third-level fees.
“Students already pay €2,250 in registration fees with phased increases likely over the next three years," Deputy Crowe said.
"This is preventing many from availing of a third level education.
Deputy Crowe claimed that the report currently being drafted by the HEA "is likely to conclude that student fees will have to increase to between €4,500 and €6,000", partly in response to predictions of a dramatic rise in third-level student numbers.
“There are growing concerns that Minister Quinn will do a U-turn on pledges he made before last year’s election and reintroduce third level fees," Deputy Crowe added.
“It is becoming clearer that students from low income families will find it increasingly difficult to access higher education courses should the recommendations of the HEA be implemented.”