Imperial is the first university in England to confirm they will charge the maximum £9,000 per year tuition fees, starting in 2012. On one hand it's an odd move, because Imperial specialises in science, engineering and technology, subjects which are keeping their government teaching grants. But on the other it should surprise nobody - creating a market for fees was always going to see the 'top' universities claiming the full amount to add to their prestige.
The move has led Aaron Porter, the - largely discredited? - NUS president to predict all London-based universities will charge the maximum £9k, even UEL and South Bank, regularly ranked towards the bottom of teaching league tables. Talking to the Standard, Porter says that higher education institutions in the capital aren't worried about putting off students with high prices because London is such a popular destination.
Prices are set on things like perceived prestige and also the desirability of the location, so the demand for London universities will hold up well despite the increase in fees... It's right to say the reasons the market will not be a reflection of quality is because in London demand outstrips supply.
Of course, any university that wants to charge more than £6k a year has to prove to the Office for Fair Access that they're helping out poorer students, and Nick Clegg has said he wants only a few universities to charge top whack. But if the access requirements are met, we don't see what he can do to stop them. We await further developments with interest.