It appears that the government is floundering as its policy of allowing flexible university fees up to £9,000 is not leading to a competitive market, but to a cartel. Most are going for the maximum amount and threatening to bust the budget for the payment of up-front fees.
With an inelastic demand currently exceeding supply, this would be likely. But there is more to it than that. A university education is being marketed as an economic asset and price is not just a measure of demand, but one of quality and status. A lower fee is a symbol of low status. If you are going to dress to impress would you wear Armani or Asda?
Once again we see the contradictions inherent in seeing universities as diploma factories for the purpose of individual gain for a minority of young people. And the big losers are things like adult education, incapable of sustaining higher fees, and those who want a more open, egalitarian university system, addressing a whole range of new markets rooted in access and social equity. This unseemly scramble for maximum income is at the expense of diversity and imagination. Sadly, the dreamers have been defeated - for now.