Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples wants universities to consider open entry for Maori students.
He said in a speech last night Maori students had the lowest rate of progression from school to tertiary education of any ethnic group.
"We have seen how the dice are loaded against Maori, right through the school system," Dr Sharples said.
"That is not any reflection on the academic potential of our young people. Reserved places for Maori have proven the ability of Maori students to rise to the challenge if they are given the opportunity."
Dr Sharples, an associate minister of education, was speaking at a function at Wellington's Victoria University.
He suggested a "quantum leap" in Maori achievement at tertiary level could be achieved if students were given open entry.
Dr Sharples said that in 2007 only 63 per cent of young Maori men and 67 per cent of young Maori women left school with at least NCEA level one.
He said the rate for Pakeha was more than 20 percentage points higher - 83 per cent of young men and 89 per cent of young women.
"Success at school is the strongest predictor of success after the first year of university, and success in the first year is the strongest predictor of continuing at university, passing courses, and completing a degree."