Chris Woodhead, professor at the University of Buckingham, on the price of academic "quality":
"I just feel for young people, who are wasting three years of their lives, who are ending up with a degree which won't have any intellectual meaning and which won't have any currency in the workplace."
The final quote from the Dept of Education highlights the possible paradox:
"It is right that we try to get more money into our universities to fund expansion - all talented young people, whatever their background, should have the chance to engage in good quality higher education." (my emphasis.)
Universities are now deeply engaged in a market system, just as secondary education and, from an attentional point of view, politicians are. The rhetoric of choice means that hype is ever more important. And where hype is needed, "opportunity" forms. Opportunity, that is, to bend whichever way fits the figures. Hence exclusive selection will find a way, paralleled - as seen above - by simply moving the goal posts for what the statistics measure.
"Quality" has many meanings in a market environment.