Although there are no official national statistics it is known that more and more postgraduates are required to teach.
Jeremy Hoad, general secretary of the National Postgraduate Committee of the National Union of Students, said: "Historically it was seen as an honour to be asked to do some teaching; recently that has changed significantly."
The NPC has conducted a survey with the Association of University Teachers. Forty-four per cent of the 233 teaching postgraduates who responded said that they had had no training. Of those who had, more than half reported that it was poor and 43 per cent that it was average or fair. Only 5.5 per cent said that it was good. The average length of the course was 2.6 days.
Proposals to get new lecturers and eventually all teaching staff accredited by an Institute for Learning and Teaching do not cover teaching by postgraduates.
Nevertheless, some universities are introducing training for PhD students. The Open University launched a package last month.
More than 200 students have enrolled on the OU postgraduate diploma course in learning and teaching in higher education. It is accredited by the Staff and Educational Development Association.
The course covers how to lead discussions, lecture, demonstrate, mark and give feedback, supervise undergraduates, organise and review teaching and how to improve your performance.
Graham Gibbs, professor of higher education practice at the OU, said: "The course is unusual in the level of theoretical underpinning that it gives."
The OU also plans to introduce a course for more experienced lecturers to start in November 1999. It will lead to a postgraduate diploma in course design in higher education. The university will be seeking accreditation from the Institute for Learning and Teaching for this course.
The University of East Anglia runs a teaching course that is compulsory for postgraduates who teach environmental science and biological science but others are encouraged to take it.
"Students love it," said Liz Elvidge, of the centre for staff and education development. "Our philosophy is to start with the needs of teaching assistants, concentrating on what they know, not what they don't know. It is a bottom-up rather than top-down approach."