In a draft policy statement released yesterday, the Labour administration sets out the priorities for the sector up to 2020.
It cites a report released in March by the Institute for Public Policy Research that predicted an “avalanche” of change in higher education under the pressures of technology and new providers.
Welsh universities “need to plan now for a more unpredictable future,” the Cardiff government document says.
“Radical innovation may be required and we need to be bold in our thinking,” it argues.
One option to find “new ways to support postgraduate study” includes trialling a two-year undergraduate degree followed by a year-long master’s course funded from statutory student support.
Another possibility includes “having a smaller number of research-intensive institutions in Wales with others focusing on provision of world-class teaching and learning experiences”.
The policy statement also says that the government would explore creating a more “self-sufficient” sector in Wales in terms of subjects offered, including introducing veterinary medicine courses to the country.
It also stresses the importance of widening participation and encourages universities to use contextual information when selecting applicants.
Universities, the Welsh government and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales will develop a new set of benchmarks and performance measures “through which to assess the quality and impact of Welsh higher education at the national and regional level”, it says.
The country’s institutions are also asked to win a “greater share of fewer, larger, research calls from the higher-spending research councils and funding from the European Horizon 2020 international collaborative research programme”.
The statement coincides with a week-long campaign by Welsh universities to highlight the work of the higher education sector in Wales.