Phi Beta Cons

More Credential Inflation

One of the scams done in the name of education is for universities to push needless credentials just to keep students enrolled longer.
This article in the current Chronicle Review (subscriber site) gets at this point. The question is whether artists need to have a Ph.D. The author, Daniel Grant, sees that the pressure “indicates what is wrong in academe, which is that it elevates credentials over everything else.”
Grant is mainly focused on the difference between a Master of Fine Arts and a Ph.D. “Earning an MFA means spending another year or so in the studio, developing a body of work that, ideally, prepares students to enter the art market.” But “pushing artists toward doctoral programs fundamentally changes their focus and goals. The Ph.D. says to the university, ‘I am committing myself to academe’ whereas the MFA primarily reflects a commitment to developing one’s skills as an artist.”
Grant goes on to observe that we see this mania for credentials in the performing arts as well, writing, “A friend of mine, a pianist who studied at the Juilliard School, Oberlin College, and the New England Conservatory, needed to obtain a Ph.D. in music to get a job as an adjunct teaching students at the University of Vermont how to play the piano.”
Most universities are non-profit entities, but that doesn’t mean that they’re any less interested in maximizing revenues than are for-profit schools.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.


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