The UK higher education system prides itself on its reputation for high quality. But for whom, and for what purpose?

This discussion paper finds that concepts of quality in higher education are narrow, based on limited stakeholder interests and are fuelling an increasingly instrumental approach to higher education with damaging results.

University Challenge presents the case for redefining quality to capture higher education’s transformative role for individuals and for the wider economy, environment and society.

This paper highlights the urgent need to rethink the purpose of higher education to take account of its transformative potential and to redefine quality in higher education accordingly. It calls for a higher education mandate which serves a dual purpose of enhancing both personal and collective well-being, recognising the learner’s role as a member of a family, community and society as well as a future worker.

In doing so, it acts as a starting point for exploring a new approach to quality in higher education and presents six features of a well-being-led approach to quality to help shape quality assurance and quality enhancement activities in the future.