It also suggests that women and teenagers from richer backgrounds are more likely to get an offer of a degree place.
The new study, by academics at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), analysed 2008 university applications from 50,000 individuals, all of whom were under 21 and had a minimum of two A-levels or equivalent qualifications.
The findings show that applicants from most black and ethnic minority backgrounds were less likely to receive offers from universities than their white British peers.
In total, degree applications from 12 minority groups examined were "significantly" less likely to result in an offer than those made by white British students, researchers found.
The only exceptions were Chinese, mixed white and Asian university candidates, who did not have a significantly lower chance of getting an offer, the study said.
The study goes on to say that applications from poorer students, men and young people who had attended comprehensive schools were less likely to result in offers.