New universities are failing to match the standards set by their traditional counterparts when it comes to marketing themselves to would-be students through their websites.
Research by branding agency Precedent has found that, overall, 72 per cent of traditional "old" universities' websites meet basic web design standards, compared with 67 per cent of post-1992 institutions.
A quarter of new universities' sites did not include basic tools such as a search facility or a logo on each page linking back to the home page. This compared with one in five traditional institutions' sites that did not include them.
More traditional website design among the pre-1992 universities often helped with accessibility.
"I suppose it might be a resource question but it might also be the fact that modern university sites are slightly more progressive at the expense of accessibility," said Adrian Porter, strategic consultant at Precedent.
"There is definitely an opportunity (for new universities) to create the accessible website and shout about it, but nobody seems to be doing that."
Traditional universities were also better at integrating new web technology into their sites. Some 26 per cent had embraced chat and instant messenger facilities to allow students and applicants to converse with academics and administrative staff. Just 9 per cent of modern universities are using these tools.
Wendy Piatt, director-general of the Russell Group of pre-1992 research-intensive universities, said: "We have made concerted efforts to increase and improve the information we provide about our universities and particularly about our admissions process and policies. Our websites are key vehicles for conveying this information.
"It is crucial that pupils receive accurate information and guidance when making choices that will affect their life chances. It is especially important for pupils from families who haven't been to university or who attend schools that provide less support and guidance about applying to Russell Group universities than others."
Pam Tatlow, chief executive of Million+, said the performance of university websites was an issue for individual institutions.