The Welsh Assembly is to conduct a Cubie-style review into student support alongside its wider Dearing-style inquiry into Welsh higher education. Advisers have urged the assembly to remove student support from the inquiry so it does not dominate debate.
The assembly does not have the same powers as the Scottish Executive, but a spokeswoman said the review could look at other options for tackling student hardship, such as increasing access funds.
Meanwhile, the assembly's education committee, formed following the resignation of former post-16 education secretary Tom Middlehurst in October, is considering proposals for the key themes of the higher education inquiry.
A consultation paper presented by special adviser Leslie Hobson, Glamorgan University's deputy vice-chancellor, proposes six themes that should be addressed by individuals and organisations giving oral evidence over the next 12 months.
They are: the size and shape of Welsh higher education; learning and teaching; economic, social and cultural regeneration; research; funding; and accountability.
Professor Hobson said that while the review should not be used to "resolve the short-term pragmatic decisions facing individual Welsh institutions", the question of diversity of missions and the role of collaboration and mergers was likely to be considered under the first theme. A report from the Welsh Funding Councils last year suggested the sector should consider rationalisation.
The other themes would take in issues including global competitiveness and the economic benefits of Welsh higher education.