Black graduates are significantly less likely to be in full-time jobs after leaving university than their white peers, official figures show.

Data shows that, of young people leaving university in 2017/18, just over half (53%) of UK-domiciled black graduates secured full-time employment, compared with 62% of white graduates.

Figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show that 5% of black graduates were unemployed 15 months after leaving university, compared with just 3% of white graduates.

It comes as universities are under increasing pressure to boost diversity on campus and improve the outcomes of students from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds.

Graduates in BME groups are eight percentage points less likely to be in full-time employment just over a year after leaving higher education than white graduates, according to the analysis from HESA.

The latest statistics also show that UK-domiciled male graduates (4%) are more likely to be unemployed than female graduates (3%) – and yet male graduates are more likely to be paid more than their female peers.

The pay gap is the greatest among graduates in highly skilled jobs, where men on average earn £26,000 and women earn £24,000.

Overall, male graduates earn around 10% more than their female peers, according to the Graduate Outcomes survey.

Of the graduates living in the UK and working full-time 15 months after leaving university, nearly half (49%) of male graduates were earning £27,000 or more, compared with just over a third (36%) of female graduates.

The survey, which looked at data of 361,215 graduates, found that 90% of graduates were in some form of work or further study.

The remaining 10% were unemployed – or were doing another activity such as travelling, caring for someone, or they were retired.

Rachel Hewitt, director of policy and advocacy at the Higher Education Policy Institute, said the data shows “there are not equal opportunities for all graduates”.

She said: “BME graduates are 8% less likely to be in full-time employment than white graduates, graduates with a disability and those from more disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to be in employment and female graduates are paid 10% less than male graduates.

“Employers need to do more to ensure their hiring practices are fair for all graduates and without discrimination.

“This needs to be accompanied by continuing support from universities for students who may face adversity when starting work.

“This will become particularly important in the coming years, as graduates face a particularly challenging labour market.”

Chris Millward, director for fair access and participation at the Office for Students, said: “It is concerning that BAME graduates were more likely to be unemployed than their white peers, and that women are over-represented in lower pay bands.

“With the labour market likely to become more challenging in the aftermath of Covid-19, it is more important than ever that all graduates are well prepared with the skills and knowledge they need to fulfil their career aspirations.”

Paul Clark, chief executive of HESA, said: “The survey captures rich and robust data and ensures the information we collect reflects recent changes in the HE sector and in the graduate labour market.”

A spokesman for Universities UK said: “It is clear that there is much more to be done to address racial inequality within education and employment, with continued disparities between graduate outcomes across different groups mirroring inequalities evident in wider UK society and which will require an unequivocal commitment to change.

“Many universities have made a considerable effort to address this inequality but there is still a long way to go.”