Te Wānanga o Aotearoa (TWoA) is set to launch a new two-year master's degree for the most advanced Māori language learners.
It follows exploding demand for te reo Māori courses nationally, and the programme is said to have already filled quickly with little marketing or promotion.
Te Tohu Paerua o te Reo Kairangi is a Level 9 New Zealand Qualifications Authority-accredited programme and will be launched on July 2 in Kirikiriroa (Hamilton).
TWoA executive director of development Ben Ngaia said it "demonstrates the high demand for te reo Māori courses", even at the language's most advanced level.
Its popularity is closely followed by TWoA's most in-demand programme, the Level 2 beginner's Te Ara Reo Māori class which often has a waiting list.
However, Te Tohu Paerua o te Reo Kairangi will be structured differently as entry to the course will be via a panel interview.
The course is said to be very similar to Te Panekiretanga o te Reo, a top Māori language academy which closed its doors two years ago and had an exclusive, invitation-only programme.
It was both "revered and feared" for its demanding nature and exacting standards.
"The teaching faculty is largely the same as Te Panekiretanga o te Reo but Te Tohu Paerua o Te Reo Kairangi is going to be as gruelling, if not more so, intellectually," leading te reo Māori kaiako Pania Papa said.
"Te Panekiretanga was established to help marae around the country and build the capacity of paepae. Fifty per cent of it was tikanga-related but the new master's programme has at its core a very heavy reo focus because we believe the tikanga side of things is better left for iwi to develop."
Te Panekiretanga trained some of the best orators and broadcasters but came to an end after the passing of Wharehuia Milroy, an integral part of the 15-year establishment.
Its list of graduates included high-profile Māori including Paraone Gloyne, Kingi Kiriona, Professor Rangi Mataamua and Scotty and Stacey Morrison.
Te Tohu Paerua o te Reo Kairangi will consist of 20 noho throughout the year. Its goal is for graduates to lead and revitalise te reo Māori within their own whānau, hapū and iwi.
"This masters programme will plug into the push for te reo Māori to be acknowledged as the native language of this country and we're doing our bit to make the language as excellent as possible, and to raise the standard as high as we can."
Papa said the tauira (students) are people who need extra coaching and support before going back into their communities to uplift the reo.
It will be taught by former Panekiretanga kaiako: Pania Papa, Leon Blake and Tā Tīmoti Karetu.