The Northern Ireland Higher Education Council has launched a new investigation into the brain drain from the province. It will focus on whether the proposed new University of Ulster campus in west Belfast would make a difference to the annual haemorrhage of students.
A detailed questionnaire has been sent to almost 2,500 students from Northern Ireland who are studying outside the province. The survey of a random sample of students is being run by Scottish consultants Pieda.
The four-page survey asks students whether they are aware of the UU plans for Springvale and, if the course they are now studying had been available, to state to what extent they would have been interested in attending there.
The undergraduates are also asked which part of the province they come from and to give their religion, although the question is voluntary.
Every year around a third of A level students leave the province and many never return. The majority have tended to be middle-class Protestants. In addition an annual total of about 15 per cent of graduates from UU and Queen's, Belfast, leave the province.
A spokesman for the Northern Ireland department of education, to which the council is an advisory body, said: "We want to see how many students are indicating that they would have stayed to do courses in Northern Ireland or what percentage and how many would have opted for Springvale."