The older and most prestigious universities must make a particular effort to recruit students from Asian and black communities.
This is the recommendation of the report of the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain, launched on Wednesday by home secretary Jack Straw.
Young people from Asian and black communities are over-represented in higher education, in that their proportions in higher education are greater than their proportions in the general population.
But 70 per cent of African Caribbean and 60 per cent of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi students pursue their studies at former polytechnics as opposed to 35 per cent of white students, noted the commission, which is chaired by Lord Parekh, professor of political theory at the University of Hull.
The commission recommended: "All universities and colleges must review and improve their arrangements for ensuring that potential students from Asian and black communities apply for a wider range of courses. This is particularly important in the case of the older and most prestigious institutions, and it applied to both young and mature students."
Surveys of employers have shown that they much prefer to recruit from the older universities, the commission noted.
Zubaida Haque of the University of Westminster, who contributed to the report, said: "We feel this pattern will continue with employers intentionally discriminating against ethnic minority graduates.
"Consequently, universities that enrol ethnic minority students will be disadvantaged by the introduction of an employment performance indicator. I would ask the government to assess the impact of the employment performance indicators on institutions that recruit higher proportions of ethnic minority students so that institutions don't suffer from taking on more ethnic minority students."
The commission recommended a review of recruitment: "There are at present no Asian or black vice-chancellors or pro vice-chancellors, and few senior administrators such as deans or registrars."
Courses and syllabi in higher education should also be reviewed with a view to making them culturally more inclusive wherever appropriate, the commission concluded.
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