Blacks and Asians are twice as likely as white graduates to be unemployed six months after leaving university, a conference heard this week.
The latest research, by the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, suggests that compared with their white counterparts, black and Asian graduates perform less well at all stages of the recruitment process, from the initial application and interview through to job offer.
When applicants' ethnic backgrounds were suppressed, the differences disappeared.
"That is not just unacceptable discrimination but it will also affect the UK's ability to compete in the global marketplace," said John Gough, president of Agcas.
The conference at Leicester University heard the results of three projects designed to better the job prospects of black and Asian students by improving their career skills and putting them in touch with mentors in different professions.
The projects also worked closely with employers such as the BBC, Accenture, AstraZeneca and British Telecom to find work placements for ethnic minority students and to raise awareness of the issue.
DTI project gives students 'an edge'
Nadine Denneth, a third-year undergraduate at the University of Leeds studying management and chemistry, found a summer work placement with the Department of Trade and Industry through the Merit (Minority Ethnic Recruitment Information and Training) project.
Ms Denneth said the project, which is a collaboration between four Yorkshire universities, had been an invaluable help.
She said: "I am hoping to work in the petrochemical industry, but there is a lot of competition and the extra help I am receiving is very important.
Merit has found work experience placements for students in more than 150 organisations. Feedback indicates that, of 200 students taking part, 95 per cent thought their job prospects had improved.
Most of the students also reported that their self-confidence was raised and their academic development had benefited significantly.