In 2013 English universities will be allowed to take all the students with ABB (or equivalent) grades that they can get. This is incredibly exciting as it gives students the choice of where to go, not limited by government quotas.
ABB is an interesting set of grades as (forgive the stereotype) these students are most definitely bright and capable, but for whatever reason have not quite achieved the grades required by some institutions. So why do these institutions want better than ABB - and what happens if they reduce their entry criteria? It might be because they simply want the best students they can get (despite the widening participation agenda) but I have a suspicion that in some cases, only the most academic students (that's not quite the same as the brightest students) can survive.
So why do really bright students get "only" ABB. Sometimes they are only OK at one specific thing (like maths perhaps), or they are a little dyslexic. Maybe they don't have parents who have the academic background to help them with study skills. The great news is that some universities already welcome ABB students and understand how to help with all of these things. They have excellent courses, their best academic staff teach (and don't hide away doing only research), their libraries are designed to be good places for undergraduates and it's all a bit friendlier. Interesting things will happen if these universities start to get more of the ABB (and AAB or AAA) students - I wonder if there's some kind of tipping point here!