Two of the country's leading universities have issued a joint statement, saying there is a funding problem in the third level sector that must be immediately addressed.

President of UCD Hugh Brady and Trinity College Provost John Hegarty said there has been a 30% cut in funding in the last 10 years.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said funding has increased year on year.

In their joint statement, the heads of TCD and UCD say Irish universities are significantly constrained by comparison to leading international institutions.

The statement says colleges abroad generally have operating budgets three times the size of ones here and have more favourable student to staff ratios.

Of more concern is that on a per student basis, core funding has been reduced by one-third since 1995 in real terms the statement says.

Meanwhile maintenance and upgrading of the infrastructure for third level teaching has stopped because of a lack of funding.

Minister for Education Mary Hanafin is to develop a new long-term strategy for higher education, but Dr Brady and Dr Hegarty say it must not shirk the immediate funding problem.