The gap between Māori and non-Māori for completing a university degree has remained large for the past 30 years despite hundreds of programmes dedicated to closing it.
About 50 per cent of Māori complete their university degree compared to 70 per cent for non-Māori.
The Tertiary Education Commission hopes to reduce that disparity over the next five years with a programme it’s trialling from a US university.
Under the programme, the academic progress of students at three institutions will be closely tracked.
Te Wananga o Raukawa in Otaki, Wintec and Waikato University are taking part in the $2 million pilot.
A profile will be drawn up on each student, pinpointing what might put them at risk of failure, and teachers will intervene early.
"Nobody is mapping the actual student journey right from prior to enrollment, all the kind of pain points," said Paora Ammunson, deputy chief executive of the Tertiary Education Commission.
Georgia State University pioneered the idea seven years ago. Now, nearly 60 per cent of Hispanic and African American students are completing their courses compared to 25 per cent previously.
"The biggest gains had been for the students who struggled the most before we implemented the system.
"Because these are the students who lack that kind of invisible support system, the parents the uncles, the brothers and sisters," said Tim Renick, senior vice president for student success at Georgia State University.
The university took on an extra 60 staff and invested heavily in technology to support its students.
It will be up to individual institutions here to decide how they support students.
But Te Wananga o Raukawa says people-power is the answer.
"It requires you to take a look at the student as a whole," said Oriwia Raureti, Pou Whakahaere.
The Tertiary Education Commission plans to roll out the programme in about 50 institutions over the next five years.