Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has distanced himself from junior minister Alan Kelly's comments on the €96m subsidy to fee-paying schools, describing them as Mr Kelly's own opinion.
Mr Kelly, a Labour Party TD, has hinted that the support given by the State to fee-paying schools -- mainly in the form of teacher salaries -- could be revised or abolished in the forthcoming Budget.
However, in an interview with Dublin City University's student radio station, Mr Quinn refused to support his party colleague's claims -- but nor did he rule out a change.
"Well, he expressed an opinion -- he's not around the cabinet table -- I am," Mr Quinn told the radio station DCUfm.
He added: "I don't think it's helpful for anybody to hear the possibility of this and the possibility of that. . . and things are difficult enough for most people for that to be compounded with that kind of thinking aloud.
"You have to make sure you get all of the options on the table discussed robustly so that you can examine the impact they may have, and the savings they could achieve and then proceed to make the decision collectively."
Mr Quinn's department has to make €77m worth of savings in December's Budget and he said that these savings might include greater efficiencies in the third-level sector.
"I am considering exploring the potential of serious economies within the third-level sector, that clearly must be there because of the high level of duplication and the under-utilisation of infrastructure for two to three months in the institute of technology sector, especially during the summer," he added.