Claims that the peace process had reversed Northern Ireland's brain drain have been thrown into doubt by census figures.
Recent university plans have been based on the assumption that people were returning to Northern Ireland in greater numbers and that more young people were staying in the province since the ceasefire and the Good Friday Agreement, but that assumption is now in question.
Officials of the province's Department for Employment and Learning are examining census returns, which seem to show a net drain of 5,000 young people over the past decade.
Ivan Davis, David Trimble's assembly chief whip, voiced concern that the statistics showed that still more people were leaving than were returning.
The census figure was well below the 13,000 that had been estimated using statistics for the number of people who register with GPs each year.
Mr Davis said: "There is no doubt that devolved government has helped bring back some of our brightest young people, but the figures are not as heartening as we would have wished."