There has been a 45% decrease in funding to Irish universities over the past 10 years.
The Irish Universities' Association says student numbers have also increased sharply over that period.
It is holding an event in Dublin city today about the role a third-level education plays in society.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin will speak at the event, in the Alex Hotel.
The IUA's director-general, Jim Miley, claims a lack of funding is having a major impact on third-level institutions.
"10 years ago the direct funding to the third level sector was of the order of €9,000 per student," said Mr Miley.
"Today it's just over €5,000 per student.
"And I think that's a very clear indication of the gap that has opened up.
"And if we are to have a university and a third level system that drives the future knowledge economy then we have to invest now and begin to close that gap in funding."