Just four out of ten black students are in full-time employment six months after leaving university, new figures have shown.
Unpublished material from the Higher Education Statistics Authority reveals that black students are 30 per cent less likely to be employed than their white counterparts.
The figures emerge as a damming report from the black employment charity Elevation Networks and the think-tank the Bow Group claims that even those who get jobs will earn 9 per cent less for the same type of work within five years.
The report concludes that black students don't face "a level playing field" in educational and employment opportunities and calls on the Government to develop a "coherent strategy" to tackle inequality of opportunity.
Last night the Labour MP Diane Abbott said that black students were "prisoners of a culture of low expectation" as well as facing discrimination in the employment market. "This is an old problem which has been made worse by the recession," she said.
"Employers are now much less likely to take a chance than they were and this is adversely affecting black students."
The report found a widespread disbelief among black students that their race would not affect their chances of finding a job.
In a survey of 2,000 black students more than 40 per cent said they anticipated discrimination from employers because of their race, while around 60 per cent did not expect to be in full-time work within six months of graduating.
But the study found that cultural and educational factors were just as important in the lack of achievement. It cited statistics showing that 46 per cent of black students who came from London stayed in the city to study for their degree compared with just 3 per cent of white students who grew up in the capital.
The situation was not so grim for white graduates, more than half of whom were in full-time employment (52 per cent) six months after finishing their studies.
Forty-two per cent of Asian graduates had found a full-time job, according to the figures.
Samuel Kasumu, the founder of Elevation Networks, said part of the problem was that not enough black students were applying to elite universities. "Often parents are reluctant for their children to study away from home or simply do not have the knowledge to push them in the right direction," he said.
Mr Kasumu said the evidence suggested that partly because of the recession top employers were not looking beyond universities such as Oxford and Cambridge to recruit graduates which had long-term implications for social mobility.
Simon Hughes, the Government's advocate for access to education, said the report needed to guide government policy in the area.
"Although there is evidence of improvement, there are still too few black youngsters who apply to university, and particularly to the highest ranking universities," he said.
Case study: 'I thought that I would get a job straight away'
Richard Kuti, 24, head of network at the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs, lives in Beckenham, Kent. He graduated from London South Bank University in 2010 with a 2:2 in Business Administration
During the first two years of uni I never had much of an experience and ended up having to repeat a year. Some teachers were good but others I wasn't happy with and I didn't feel I always had their support.
I went to South Bank through clearing. I had originally wanted to go to Queen Mary but didn't get the grades. Going outside London was never really a consideration.
Once I was at uni I felt that my career prospects were becoming increasingly bleak. I just didn't click with my course and felt that it was a bit "soft" and not skills-based enough.
I started to do a lot of extra-curricular things in my third year and thought that once I left I'd get a job straight away. But I applied for hundreds of jobs and got turned down left, right and centre. I think it was probably because of the university I'd gone to.
Now I've got a job that I absolutely love but there's so much that I've had to learn along the way that I wish I'd been told from the start.
60% Proportion of black graduates not in full-time employment six months after leaving university
40% Percentage of black students who expect racial discrimination from employers
30% Proportion of black graduates less likely to find work than their white counterpart