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MFA program rankings come under fire

Earlier this month, nearly 200 creative writing faculty from across the U.S. signed an open letter in objection to Poets & Writers magazine’s 2012 ranking of MFA programs.

From the letter:

To put it plainly, the Poets & Writers rankings are bad: they are methodologically specious in the extreme and quite misleading. A biased opinion poll – based on a tiny, self-selecting survey of potential program applicants – provides poor information.

Now Poets & Writers has issued a response, arguing that their survey of writing program applicants – rather than current students, alumni or faculty – provides valuable information:

While applicants are not experts on creative writing programs, they do have a vested interest in researching the various qualities of a number of programs and comparing them.

This back-and-forth is sparking debate about how to judge a writing program and who should be doing it. Perhaps more interesting, the exchange is also raising questions about what’s worth most in a writer’s training.

  • Robert J. Sawyer

    Having those who have applied rate a program they haven’t attended is like having those who haven’t actually read a book write a review of it. It’s pointless.

  • MJ

    I agree with Robert’s comment above. Rankings are most useful to future applicants — they already know what they think about the schools, through their own research and hearsay. What they really need to know is what people who’ve already been to those schools thought of them (did the schools fulfill their promises? are they as good as the hype says they are?).

  • Sheila Finch

    The only way to judge a writing program — *any* writing program — is to see how many of the faculty have published/are actively publishing now, and how many of the alumni have published — and where.

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