EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn said universities need to "get their heads around" how much third-level costs can be reduced before seeking extra funding for the sector.
He was responding to a new campaign by the Irish Universities Association to put pressure on the Government to focus on how to address the funding needs of higher education.
Mr Quinn said he was conscious that "we have squeezed budgets of the higher education sector, but I am not convinced yet that we have a clear picture of the operational cost".
He was referring to a process of rationalisation currently under way in higher education.
The State contributes about €1.1bn in grants to higher education, but it is estimated that the sector will need almost half as much again by 2020.