IRISH third-level colleges could come under even greater pressure this year as fewer students apply to UK universities.
There has been a 20pc drop in demand from students from the Republic of Ireland for UK colleges compared with this time last year.
The rise in tuition fees in English universities coming into effect next autumn is the likely reason for the downturn. Irish applications to the British centralised third-level applications service, UCAS, dropped 453 on the year -- down from 2,352 in December 2010 to 1,899 last month.
Applications are still being accepted. Education analysts have been anticipating a double-whammy effect on Ireland from the increase in tuition fees in England.
It is likely to translate into greater numbers of Leaving Cert students staying at home to study and could also see an increase in applications from students from England and Wales.
A spokesperson for the Higher Education Authority said it was "monitoring" the situation.
From next September, English universities may increase their fees to Stg£6,000 (€7,200) a year, or, in some, cases up to Stg£9,000 (€10,900).
Universities in the North, Wales and Scotland are not introducing the same increase.
British students attending Irish third-level colleges are liable to pay the standard registration charge, which will be €2,500 from September.
Enrolments to the Irish third-level system are now at record levels due to a combination of the economic downturn and the demand for higher qualifications.
Meanwhile second-level guidance counsellors have warned that vulnerable and disadvantaged students are most at risk from Budget cuts coming into effect in September.
At least 500 jobs will go as schools are told that they will have to provide for counselling from within their mainstream teaching hours.
After a meeting yesterday, counsellors said schools would be forced to make difficult choices between the provision of essential counselling and maintaining subject provision.