Undoubtedly, and without reservation, the universe is what it is, metaphysically or otherwise. Nobody has questioned this. But by the same token, the human mind is what is and evading this fact will not make it go away. The fact important to the context of Universals is that the human mind imbues the real world with ideals of its own creation.
The human mind does this for various reasons, first and foremost perhaps is to bring comprehension to the world around it. Where the world utterly fails to bring its comprehension to the human mind, the mind itself makes this comprehension a possibility, set forth as a task not by reason or mystical intuition, but by the nature of the mind itself.
Sometimes, however, this task takes on elements of psychological neurosis, as when Ayn Rand, in her quest for the Ideal Man, thinks to have found it in this or that personage (such as Branden) and is eventually disappointed to find that it's not the case. If Rand had understood the nature of Universals as idealizing principles of the mind she might have understood that they were not intended to serve as psychological projections based on unmet childhood needs carried into adulthood as neuroses - and finally, when the subconscious premises of this neurosis are gathered together in a somewhat less rhapsodic and more intellectualized way, as a lowly, secular, man-worshipping, emotion-driven religion posing as higher philosophy.