Students have reacted angrily to news that the Higher Education Authority is looking at reintroducing third-level fees.

Education & Science Minister Batt O'Keeffe says nothing has been decided on the matter yet.

The proposals have already been criticised by the Green Party and the PDs, who say they are not part of the Programme for Government.

Labour is also opposing the move.

Minister O'Keeffe says only families who could afford fees would be asked to pay.

President of the Union of Students in Ireland Shane Kelly says any extra cost would have a negative impact, and would prevent less well-off people from being educated at third-level.

The Irish Universities Association has welcomed the fact that the Minister is willing to review how third level is funded -but it says the approach should be to look at Government and private funding together.

Business group IBEC is also in favour of reintroducing fees- it says the current system of funding is unsustainable.

Minister O'Keeffe has yet to discuss the issue with his Cabinet colleagues.

He confirmed reports today that an expert group is looking at the reinstatement of fees as part of an overall review of the third-level sector.

However any such significant policy change would require full Government approval.

Since the abolition of fees under the Rainbow coalition in the 1990s, the number of students going on to third-level education has gone up.

However universities have complained of difficulties in competing on the international stage in the absence of funding.

The reintroduction of fees was ruled out in last year's programme for Government.