The proportion of third-level fees being paid by students has risen steadily over the past three years, while the proportion coming from the State declines, figures from the Higher Education Authority show.

Last year, third-level students paid 74% of the total "fees" funding received by higher education institutions, with the State paying the remaining 26%.

This is a 3% rise on the proportion paid by students the year before and a 10% rise compared to 2014/15.

The data from the HEA shows that in 2014/15 the State met 36% of the total fees burden, while students paid the remaining 64%.

Last year, the State paid out less and just 26%, while students paid 74% of the overall amount.

A HEA spokesperson attributed the shift to a number of factors.

These include: 

- Increased fees being paid by postgraduate students due to fee increases and growing numbers.

- Increased income from overseas students.

- Possibly fewer students qualifying for grants under the State support SUSI system.

The shift mirrors overall trends in the sector, which is increasingly relying on non-State funding sources to make up for the shortfall in Exchequer funding.

UCD, the country’s largest university, now obtains 65% of its total funding from private sources, which is a reversal of 2008 levels when 65% of UCD funding came from the State.

This is the trend for universities, but non-Exchequer funding is not so readily available to the country’s institutes of technology because they have limits on their capacity to borrow and tend to engage in less grant-attracting research.

The HEA’s 'Key Facts and Figures' for 2017/18, published today, also shows that student numbers in the sector have increased by 18% over a six-year period.

In 2011, there were 196,000 students attending higher education institutions. Last year, this figure had risen to almost 232,000, with 17% of students studying part-time.