It's not 85,000 new student places. The plan involves taking 85,000 existing places out of the current mechanism and opening them up to competition. So universities can recruit as many students as they like of the 65,000 who get AAB in their A Levels - an obvious problem for widening access given the proportion of these from private schools - and the places will be lost by other universities that now don't recruit those students. Almost all AAB students go to university anyway: this is just a way for the government to introduce its cherished 'market principles' into the selective end of HE. The other 20,000, as the article says, will be used to create a market at the low-cost end of HE. The quite staggering thing that no-one is mentioning is that it will now be *more expensive* for home students to get a university degree in Britain than in the US. An in-state student attending the University of Michigan pays $11,722 a year - less than £7,500. This is a top-ranking university. At Berkeley in California, in-state fees are just £4,195 a year. Obviously this creates a lottery based on whether you happen to live near a good uni or not, but it's indicative of just how bad things are in the UK.