Next week sees judgement day on graduate employability when funding chiefs publish their latest performance indicators.
Education secretary David Blunkett is keen to identify which universities and colleges produce the most employable graduates, and to reward them with extra student places.
Overall, about 5 per cent of full-time students are unemployed six months after graduating. However, the rate varies widely across the sector.
Universities and colleges that welcome ethnic minority students have lower graduate employability because black and Asian graduates experience more difficulties in finding a job than whites.
About 70 per cent of Afro-Caribbean and 60 per cent of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi students study at post-1992 universities compared with 35 per cent of white students. Surveys show employers prefer to recruit from pre-1992 institutions.
The performance indicators aim to take account of these factors by calculating a benchmark figure for each institution, taking into account: subject mix; entry qualifications; age, ethnicity, gender, social class and home neighbourhood of students; and the location of each institution and its local unemployment rate.
But Zubaida Haque, who last year examined the employability of ethic minority graduates with Peter Urwin and Len Shackleton of the University of Westminster business school, said: "First destination data is not always a good indicator of where people eventually end up... Middle-class students tend to take a year out after university to explore opportunities and find themselves, for example."