Universities should be more like supermarkets and offer students satisfaction or their money back, according to Sir Geoffrey Holland, former vice-chancellor of Exeter University and a past permanent secretary at the Department for Education.
He told this week's Queen's Anniversary Prizes celebration dinner that institutions were "short-changing" students by not using new technology to improve teaching standards.
Sir Geoffrey said that supermarkets gave people access to a range of services regardless of their background. "That's the 21st-century way of widening participation," he said. "Why shouldn't universities be like that."
Instead of turning applicants away because they lacked the grades, he said, universities should try to accommodate them. "Why not offer programmes of other institutions and not just our own brand? Just how flexible, how pick 'n' mix, are we? Why force students to do all or nothing of any programme? Why not guarantee refunds or replacement of unsatisfactory items?"