So what if drop-out rates go up? What do we mean by "dropping out"? Are people realising that HE is not for them? Are there no mechanisms for rewarding what they HAVE acheived (rather than what they have not?)
For me, this suggests one key thing: there just needs to be more support in HE. It is not enough to recruit - we have to enable people to reach their potential once there. We alter the routes IN - that's fine. It does not mean we are altering the routes THROUGH if we offer support to all students and make it okay for ALL students to access it in order to demonstrate their talents. There is too much of a sink and swim approach in many institutions.
We can all do better (those of us working in HE); we can all do more (even though that probably means those above us taking strategic policy decisions beyond our impact). What we cannot do is allow the nay-sayers to make rising drop-out rates an excuse to block the entry of all students deserving of a chance to experience Higher Education in the UK.