I again thank Deputy McConalogue for his comments at the outset. To work back through his questions, I naturally cannot answer his last question, as the Government is in the middle of a budgetary process for the next week or two and consequently, I cannot go into that at present. To clarify the positions and rankings of the universities, the QS World University Rankings show that seven universities in Ireland feature in the top 200. That is the top 1% out of 15,000 universities across the world and one should put this into perspective. As for the Times Higher Education rankings, Trinity College has lost ground slightly and has dropped from 129th to 138th place. UCD has slipped considerably from 161st to 220th place but NUIG has greatly improved its position. I note NUI Maynooth also has dropped slightly, while UCC has remained within the top 300. On being prone to exaggeration, the Deputy is correct that there are different league tables, all of which are assessed slightly differently. Overall, however, one should bear in mind that one is talking about the top 1% out of 15,000 universities.
The Deputy is correct to state that funding has been cut. I will not explain to him why that has happened, as I believe he is aware how we got here. While there have been cuts in funding in recent years, the Government will attempt to close that gap as things improve. The Deputy also referred to the Government delaying the decision. As he is aware, the expert working group on this area, chaired by Peter Cassells, is currently preparing the report on the future of funding policy for higher education. That group is due to make its internal report to the Government and to the Department by the end of 2014. It also will produce its public report early in 2015.