A Māori studies professor from the University of Auckland says students and academics re subjected to racism, and is urging the Government to conduct a national review of the sector.
Margaret Mutu is one of 37 Māori professors from universities across the country who have signed an open letter calling for a nationwide review.
The call followed allegations of systemic and casual racism at the University of Waikato, raised by six academics in a letter to the Ministry of Education.
The letter spurred the university to commission an independent review. Now, Māori professors were calling for a national review.
The latest call for action was backed by professors from the University of Otago, University of Auckland, Massey University, AUT, Victoria University of Wellington, University of Waikato, University of Canterbury and Lincoln University.
Mutu said racism in universities has been around since the institutions were established.
"Racism in the universities is a major issue, right the way across every single university."
Mutu sat on the University Audit committee from 1995-2010, where she said she witnessed students and teachers in tears over racism.
Mutu's allegations of racism at her own university included decisions relating to Māori being made by non-Māori, often without Māori input. She also claimed Māori knowledge, scholarship and expertise either not being recognised as valid or its value measured by English and US knowledge-measurement tools.
Mutu said Māori students have told her they felt unsafe at the university and had been told by other students they did not belong there.
She said some staff have been threatened by senior staff for raising the issue of racism.
"Māori studies does become the safe place for our Māori students when they come up against this. They come and find refuge at Māori studies and the marae. They shouldn't have to do that," Mutu said.
The University of Auckland has been approached for comment.
Professor of law at the University of Otago Jacinta Ruru said the letter came from a place of deep frustration and "a lot of hurt".
"We are really at a breaking point now. I think there is a number of us that have been in this system for long enough now, for 20 years, 30 years, and have seen no significant change.
"I think what has happened at Waikato has exacerbated a fundamental issue that we all have to face across all of our universities. A huge amount of hurt that has really bubbled right up to a point of real deep frustration. We really hope this will be the catalyst for positive change."
She said a review would be a "win-win" for New Zealand.
"We really want this [review] to be an enabling, positive, transformative experience for us as a country.
"The universities have the expectation that they are a good place for Māori, that they are te Tiriti o Waitangi compliant, but Māori don't feel that, they don't see that, we don't hear that.
"Systemic racism and racism on a daily basis is alive and well within the universities."
Victoria University Professor of Māori education Joanna Kidman said the professors who signed the letter were some of the most senior academics in universities around the country.
"When professors sign something, that's letting you know the issue is quite a serious one."
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said he would be responding to the letter.
"Of course the tertiary education sector must honour te Tiriti o Waitangi. We take very seriously reports of systemic or structural racism," he said.
The Government would consider the findings of the University of Waikato review closely and the expert group Te Taumata Aronui may want to use the implications of the findings for the wider sector, Hipkins said.
Chief executive of sector body Universities New Zealand Chris Whelan said the country's eight universities were committed to working in good faith with Māori.
The vice chancellors would meet Te Kāhui Amokura - the body's committee tasked with improving outcomes for Māori university students, staff and scholarship - next month "to see what more can be done to gain agreement about obligations under te Tiriti and how they operate alongside the other obligations and expectations placed on universities".
"The vice chancellors are committed to working with the university sector's Māori leaders on finding agreement on these important issues."
Victoria University said it would welcome a national review and has a strong commitment to decolonisation and indigenisation.
"[That ranges from] defining the university's iho [essence] as a global-civic university with a marae at our heart, to ensuring strong Māori leadership on [the university council], its sub-committees and the senior leadership team, to a carefully considered Māori strategic outcomes framework to active and visible commitments to te Tiriti (including a te Tiriti o Waitangi statute), mātauranga Māori and te reo."