standards in taught masters courses may be suffering because of the boom in demand.
Peter Knight, senior lecturer in the educational research department at Lancaster University, says more research is needed to escape the danger of a decline in quality arising from the "boom town logic of crowded markets".
The number of postgraduates rose from just over 100,000 in 1979 to 315,000 by 1994/95, 82 per cent of whom were on a taught course.
He told a meeting of the Society for Research into Higher Education in London this week that institutions may be starting masters programmes while lacking the academic rigour and expertise to offer appropriate quality.
Dr Knight, whose Masterclass: learning, teaching and curriculum in taught master's degrees is to be published this year, said: "One reason for worrying about standards is the paucity of relevant research into curriculum, learning, teaching, assessment and quality.
What is happening appears to be based on enthusiasm, experience and exigency, which are not normally seen by academics as the best guides to action."
Dr Knight suggested that taught master's standards and quality might be overseen by a new single quality agency.
* Research opportunities, pages I-XXXVI