Irish students have hit back at claims that excessive consumption of alcohol is responsible for high dropout rates at some colleges.
Don Thornhill, chairman of the Higher Education Authority, told a seminar that students were spending "a significant proportion of their time and money" on alcohol.
But Colm Jordan, education officer at the Union of Students in Ireland, said there was more "per capita drinking" in the D il bar than in student bars.
He said politicians should adopt a "calm and reasonable" approach to student drinking.
The seminar on dropout rates was expected to focus on causes such as inadequate grants. But Dr Thornhill's said that several colleges were examining alcohol as a contributory factor.
A study, the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs, showed that Irish teenagers drink more and engage in more binge drinking than almost all of their European counterparts.
Overall, dropout rates are in line with international trends, but at some institutes of technology, rates are more than 40 per cent.