The Higher Education Minister says the points race for college and university places is out of control.
Simon Harris has told the TUI's annual conference that a fully integrated third-level system, that shows students all their options, is needed.
Minister Harris says the existing system is placing "appalling levels of pressure and stress" on young people.
He said: "It's allowed an almost elitist mindset to emerge, which defines success in some people's mind as where you went to college - rather than what you want to do with your life.
"It has failed to recognise the brilliance of further education and training, and how this should not just be a fallback option for students, but for many should and can be a first choice.
"It has allowed skills shortages in key areas to develop. It has ignored the worrying dropout rates from higher education."
Minister Harris said a new system is needed 'quickly', noting that its development is one of his priorities.
He argued a new system must make it easier for people to move from further education to higher education.
He suggested it would also 'value the apprenticeship model' as it can offer benefits across a range of careers and professions.
Minister Harris has previously criticised the public sector for not taking on more apprentices, saying it's a 'disgrace' that the current number is so low.
Teachers' unions are holding their annual conferences this week, and have warned they are prepared to consider industrial action if the Government doesn't agree to priortise the vaccination of teachers.
Teachers had initially been due to receive vaccinations as a priority group, but those plans have been scrapped due to the upcoming move to an age-based vaccine rollout.