Black students are half as likely to get into Cambridge University than white candidates, according to figures.
Just 14 per cent of the 202 hopefuls from black and dual heritage backgrounds were admitted in 2008.
The success rate for white applicants in the same period was 31 per cent, the university said.
Equality campaigners and senior academics claimed the statistics enhanced Cambridge's image as an elitist institution for white, middle class students.
A record 448 minority students who declared their ethnicity gained a place this year - up from 428 in 2008.
But Geoff Parks, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, admitted he was still unhappy about the number of black students.
And he feared the situation was unlikely to be resolved in his lifetime.
"Cambridge is displaying a serious commitment to try and get to the point where people stop talking about it," he told a student newspaper.
"I'm not sure it will happen in my lifetime, but we could hope it would.
"There are a lot of success stories in the growing diversity of the whole body of Cambridge.
"But there is this issue - and Cambridge I think reflects the national picture - that students from black backgrounds are not as represented as one would like them to be."
Soban Khawaja, chairman of Cambridge University Students' Union Black Students' Campaign, blamed low aspirations within some black communities, rather than the university, for the small number of ethnic applicants.
He said: "There's a need to let people know in the sixth-form colleges that Cambridge is an option if you have the grades."
Tony Talburt, of the Black Boys Can Association, which works to raise the educational aspirations of black students, said disadvantaged students often felt upper-class Oxbridge was "not for them."
He added: "There's a social class thing - the middle class and upper class are associated with Oxford and Cambridge - so people's perception of what these institutions are is sometimes hard to change."
Statistics show that some colleges are more popular with black applicants than others.
Emmanuel College has 16 black students this year, while Newnham and Selwyn only have one.
Other Colleges failed to admit a single student who declared their ethnicity as black in 2007, according to separate figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.
In total, 90 per cent of Cambridge students declare their ethnicity on application. The overall success rate for applicants is 27 per cent.
But Dr Parks warned that prospective students should not take the figures at face value.
"It's very hard to discern any meaningful correlations and patterns in the data - everything has very large error bars," he said.
"Some perceive Cambridge as old-fashioned, rural, quiet, nightclubs that aren't particularly cutting edge.
"All these lifestyle-related issues play into a lot of young people's decisions about where to go to university."
The university's Black Students' Campaign, which supports black undergraduates in Cambridge, said the problem was cultural. (By Daily Telegraph Reporter Last Updated: 5:39PM GMT 13 Feb 2009)