Six out of 10 Northern Ireland students who study in Britain never return here to work
Most Northern Ireland students who go to university in England, Scotland or Wales never return to work here, according to new figures.
Just four in 10 (39%) of Northern Ireland graduates from English, Welsh and Scottish higher education institutions contribute their skills to the local economy.
"It is a significant brain drain but there are no jobs for them," said Basil McCrea, chair of Stormont's Employment and Learning Committee.
"The big challenge for Northern Ireland is that we have to create employment opportunities for young people here to exploit their skills.
"I do not have a problem with people leaving, they should go and investigate the world. The key thing is that most want to come back and work here but don't because there are no jobs or career progression."
Every year around 16,000 (26%) of Northern Ireland-domiciled students chose to study elsewhere in the UK.
The latest figures from the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) show 56% of Northern Ireland graduates from Great Britain universities are employed in England, Scotland and Wales, 2% in the Republic and 3% elsewhere.
In stark comparison, 90% of local students who attend Northern Ireland higher education institutions are employed in the province, just 6% in Great Britain, 2% in the Republic and 2% elsewhere.
Non Northern Ireland-domiciled leavers who study at Northern Ireland's universities are also more likely to leave the province to work with only 32% employed here.
The statistics relate to those who graduated from UK higher education institutions in 2010.
DEL's annual survey also reveals that most university leavers (73%) are in employment, although that figure includes those in both full and part-time work.
Broken down it shows less than half (49%) are in full-time employment, down from 61%, and the level in part-time work is rising.
Almost one in 10 are unemployed, a level which has doubled in only five years. However, that is considerably lower than the proportion of young people (18 to 24-year-olds) overall who are unemployed (21%).
Other findings show that male graduates (69%) were less likely to be in employment than their female counterparts (75%).
Full-time leavers from St Mary's (81%) and Stranmillis (77%) were more likely to be in employment six months after leaving than those from Queen's University Belfast (69%) and University of Ulster (74%).
The unemployment rate of full-time leavers was highest at UU (12%), while QUB (8%), Stranmillis (9%) and St Mary's (8%) experienced similar rates.
* Proportion of Northern Ireland graduates in employment is highest for those who studied medicine and dentistry (96%), veterinary science (92%), education (85%) and subjects allied to medicine (83%).
* Subject areas with lowest proportion in employment include historical and philosophical studies (63%), biological sciences (62%), languages (60%), physical sciences (55%), mathematical sciences (46%).
* The average salary of full-time first degree leavers from local universities in full-time employment has increased by 1% from £18,545 in 2008/09 to £18,685 in 2009/10.