Daniel Grant in the Chronicle of Higher Education:
Job security is a relatively new concept in the ancient field of teaching art. Historically artists have created, and been judged on, their own credentials — that is, their art. And the master of fine-arts degree, often described as a “terminal degree,” or the endpoint in an artist’s formal education, has long been sufficient for artists seeking to teach at the college level. But significant change may be on the horizon, as increasing numbers of college and university administrators are urging artists to obtain doctoral degrees.
We shouldn’t be surprised; the M.F.A. has been under attack for some time now. The M.F.A. has become a problem for many administrators, who are increasingly uncomfortable with different criteria for different faculty members. They understand the lengthy process required to earn a doctorate — of which the master’s degree is only a small, preliminary part — and see hiring a Ph.D. over an M.F.A. as the difference between buying a fully loaded showroom automobile and a chassis. Administrators like the background Ph.D.’s have in research, publishing, and grant writing (though if their principal concern were the teaching of studio art to undergraduates, they wouldn’t focus so much on the doctorate).