I did a postgrad degree at Imperial and I'm very proud of my DIC. I did look at it for undergrad but was (country bumpkin) overwhelmed by the concrete jungle, travelling etc and went to Cambridge instead. Good for punting, but rubbish for engineering. Not one of the best decisions of my life.
If your DD is cut out to be a scientist, go to the best place and don't look back. Student life is what you make it, it's only three years and the objective is to get a degree, not sit in pubs discussing philosophy.
My DS is in 1st year at ICL. He was initially disappointed to be allocated a shared room but now is very happy and enjoys having shared room, right next to the college. Work-load is very intense but he makes good use of the excellent gym (yes there's also a pool) and although from the far flung North is getting a good group of friends now. Its perhaps taken a bit longer than elsewhere but I think he's getting there and proud to be at a top class institution. I certainly think you have to be prepared to work very hard but there are ops to do other things too. For me when I was a student, I don't think I could have coped with London straight from school. It is a question of personal preferences and aspirations.
My DD is 3rd year at Imperial. She loves it - never really considered anywhere else to study. The social life is fantastic, the facilities and teaching are marvellous and it isn't costing us an arm and a leg!
She had offers from Manchester and Leeds, both much nearer home, but I honestly would be more worried about her safety in either of those cities.
She lived in Beit for her first year.
PM me if you would like more detail. There are a lot more men there than women.
It was insensitive of me to say it isn't costing us an arm and a leg. My DD is 2010 entry so is on the pre-price-rise fees. However, fees are pretty much the same everywhere in England so, leaving that aside, is a London university more expensive than elsewhere overall? I'm not convinced it is.
We live in a rural village in a tourist area. A single person renting accommodation here would pay much the same rent each month as DD is paying for her flat in London. We looked at student accommodation in Manchester and it wasn't a lot cheaper than Beit Hall in Kensington. The student loan London allowance takes up the slack.
She could have lived at home and chosen the 'local' RG university. It's about 15 miles away but is at least a 40 minute commute by car each way with parking to pay for. She would need a car as the bus service is horrendous and she would still have to be picked up and dropped at the nearest bus stop. Travel without a car here at night is inconceivable. Travel of any form here is subject to weather conditions.
Where she lives she can shop for food locally very cheaply and dodge about with her Oyster card with cheap access to great theatre and concerts. I get quite jealous.
If the London weighting on her student loan means she leaves with a higher loan to repay at the end of it then she would argue that a qualification from Imperial enhances her career prospects in any case. It is in the top half dozen places in the world for her subject.
All in all, I know she is in the best possible place for her. I worry less about her safety in London than I would if she had chosen to study pretty much any where else. I lose more sleep when she's here using the car and driving across lonely moorlands!