Many feel that they operate a white "old boys' network" which also extends to the search for jobs after graduating, according to the research by the Institute for Employment Studies. This leads to students from ethnic minority groups being more likely to get lower-grade degrees and lower- paid jobs than white graduates.
The students felt that even those with the best degrees ended up taking jobs which were below them - often for companies that wanted a "black face" to boost their image.
The research showed that ethnic minority students were more likely to go to "new" universities, despite the fact that many had the same or better A-level grades than whites who went to "old" universities.
The IES studied questionnaires from 1,177 graduates from two old and two new universities, then followed up by analysing 272 individuals.
Ethnic minorities make up 12 per cent of Britain's students - even though they represent a little over 6 per cent of the population. But they make up 30 per cent of some former polytechnics which have been converted into universities.
An institute research fellow, Ivana La Vall, said: "There is a class and cultural difference at old universities which affects minorities. Many have told us they felt under pressure to 'act white' as they put it. Asian girls who wore traditional dresses felt uneasy. They also felt it was hard to explain that they did not want to go to the pub all night and that their culture meant they did not drink and went home early.
"Even black students at old universities did not like the rugby-club culture and felt isolated. It can be a class issue for many from, say, inner cities.
"Some told us they felt the old universities operated an old white-boys network. Many felt the same discrimination when looking for work,"
Forty per cent of ethnic minority students had to make 15 or more applications before getting a job, compared to around 25 per cent of whites. The average Asian or black graduate took 4.6 months to find their first permanent job compared to 3.9 months for whites.Reuse content