Questionable Ranking Systems for MFA Programs


Poets & Writers recently ranked the country’s MFA programs, and as rankings often do, it is being received with some hostility. Their hierarchy of MFA programs is based on the word of mouth of MFA applicants, rather than the US News-style algorithm (which has got its own controversy).

Though the ranking did come with a disclaimer, this wasn’t enough precaution to preclude the backlash— it incited around two hundred faculty members from creative writing programs far and wide to craft an open letter describing the irresponsibility of such an unscientific ranking system. Ranking systems are often questionable, but aren’t such biases even more pronounced with these creative degrees?

“…it’s not black and white, and when you think about it, programs like these aren’t really that rankable. What if your favorite writer teaches at a program at the bottom of the list? What qualifies as a successful graduate: a creative-writing teacher, a best-selling novelist, or someone who has honed his or her writing in an extraordinary way but fails to put it to work professionally?”

Sam Riley is an adult who works at McSweeney's. More from this author →