Minister for Education Batt O'Keeffe says he has decided to dissolve the National University of Ireland.

In a statement Mr O'Keeffe said the need for the NUI body had been outlived.

The NUI is an umbrella body comprising four separate universities, UCD, UCC, NUIG and NUI Maynooth.

Mr O'Keeffe said the small number of administrative and academic functions still carried out by the body would now be redistributed, with many of them to be undertaken by its constituent universities.

The McCarthy report recommended its dissolution.

However, Fine Gael Education Spokesman Brian Hayes has criticised the decision. He says it was taken without consultation with the universities or graduates and is not based on any firm calculations.

Mr Hayes said it was also totally pre-emptive of the Government's own strategy on higher education and was yet another example of Fianna Fáil's disjointed views on the sector.