The body running the third level student grant service SUSI has said it has completed over half of the more than 60,000 applications it has received.

Dublin VEC said a little over a third of grants have been awarded.

It said over 17,000 students have been approved for maintenance grants; 11,400 have been paid, and a further 2,000 will receive payment by this Friday.

This leaves 4,000 of those approved for maintenance grants unlikely to receive them before Christmas.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Union of Students of Ireland President John Logue blamed the Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) for the long delays, which have left many students still awaiting payment.

"The fact of the matter is that the difference between this year and last year is the SUSI system.

"This time last year the vast majority of students had their first payment of their maintenance grant, and were able to cover the rent costs, the food costs and everything that arises in the first semester", he said.

Speaking on the same programme, Chief Executive of the City of Dublin VEC Jacinta Stewart said many of the outstanding payments for approved maintenance grants will be made when students submit their bank details.

"The remaining students, mainly awarded in the last week, have yet to submit their bank details and in fact we're operating a call out to students to get their bank details in to ensure that we can pay them as soon as possible," Ms Stewart said.

According to the VEC, of the 37,440 applications that have been completed, 13,676 were refused or cancelled; 4,750 of the approved applications are for "fees only awards" which go directly to the college, while 1,941 are grants that have been provisionally awarded, where for example course acceptance is still pending.

The remaining 17,373 students have been approved for maintenance grants which are paid directly to them.

Just over 3,000 applications are still being processed, while SUSI is in contact with over 6,700 applicants regarding the submission of missing documents.

A remaining 19,731 students have not responded to SUSI requests in relation to additional documentation, and the VEC said that based on previous experience, many of these will not be further pursued by the applicants.

Meanwhile, a student "sleep-out" protest at the Dáil, which was due to take place tonight, has been cancelled after gardaí removed permission for it.

The "sleep-out" was organised by the USI in protest against a 3% cut to the income threshold for the student maintenance grant and problems with SUSI grants.

Mr Logue said they only learned last night that the protest would not take place.

"We had initial permissions from Pearse Street Garda Station yesterday morning to the point that we were talking about the minute details of what was going to happen and then last night at about 7pm we got an email from the Superintendent saying absolutely not," Mr Logue said.

In a statement, gardaí said the area surrounding the Dáil must remain a public thoroughfare to facilitate the public and the business community at this busy time of year.