The Higher Education Authority is refusing to allow third level colleges fund student leisure, counselling and other services even though students have paid for those services through their registration fees.

Gyms, swimming pools and other facilities in third level colleges have been shut down because the colleges have not been allowed to renew staff contracts.

But student leaders and the colleges say the Registration Fee - which doubled this year - is supposed to pay for those facilities.

All of the country's colleges are struggling with the effects of cutbacks to the sector.

At the Dublin Institute of Technology, science students have already lost up to a quarter of scheduled classes because the embargo on recruitment has restricted the use of science labs.

Gyms, Sports Halls and a swimming pool have also been shut down, and disability services curtailed, because the Higher Education Authority has not allowed the college renew leisure staff contracts.

But both DIT and the Student's Union say the ban on recruitment should not apply to these areas because they are funded directly from the Student Registration Fee.

The college says it has the money to spend, while students say it is ironic that in a year that saw their registration fees double, their services have been slashed.