The first students to start foundation degrees will enrol at institutions with some of the worst graduate employment records - despite the qualification being promoted as one that will appeal to employers.
Most of the 21 lead institutions for the 40 foundation degree courses starting in September have average or below average graduate recruitment rates, according to indicators published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
On average, 93-94 per cent of graduates are working six months after finishing their degrees.
At Thames Valley University, 86 per cent of last year's graduates from full-time courses were employed. TVU has been awarded places for 120 full-time students taking the vocationally oriented qualification.
A spokesman said: "We take more mature students, more ethnic minority students and more from lower socioeconomic groups and we are only a few percentage points below the average."
Harper Adams University College's employment record is just 1 per cent higher. It has been awarded places for a foundation degree in rural enterprise.
Salford and Leeds Metropolitan universities both have recruitment rates that are significantly lower than their benchmarks, yet both have been awarded foundation degree places.
A spokesman for the funding council said that graduate employment rates were not considered in the assessment of foundation degree proposals.