image: BoF image: BoF

Parsons MFA wants no part of Business of Fashion’s annual Global Fashion School Rankings and it is not mincing words about it. The New York-based educational institution has called out the London-based publication for allegedly falling short in its duty to “inform current and prospective students accurately in regards to the education they want to potentially involve themselves in” and inciting a “conflict of interest” in connection with its rankings.

According to a lengthy statement released last week by Shelley Fox, the Director of the school’s MFA Fashion Design and Society program, “This year the Parsons MFA Fashion Design & Society program decided to no longer participate in the Global Fashion School Rankings created by the media site Business of Fashion.”

Fox’s statement goes on to state:

We feel there is a conflict of interest where Business of Fashion has set up their own educational courses one year after the first Global Fashion School Rankings were launched in 2015. Numerous well established institutions voluntarily handed over all their data in the hopes to become part of a seemingly much sought after ranking and while everyone awaits with baited breath for these ranking outcomes, turning each institution into rivalling competitors, Business of Fashion reaps from the benefits of the scenario they created, while standing outside the realm of education. Unfortunately, this is not in the benefit of the students or education but exactly their business of fashion.

It requires a great responsibility in informing current and prospective students accurately in regards to the education they want to potentially involve themselves in. There is no benefit for Institutions, Faculty or Students when a ranking does not incorporate factual data, diversity of programs and their geographical context or any sense of ethical and environmental responsibility. It is for all of these reasons that the Parsons MFA Fashion Design and Society program withdrew from the Business of Fashion Global Fashion School Rankings.”

As noted by Fashion Unfiltered, Fox highlights “how the values of Parsons (which has an institution-wide dedication to sustainability) are in conflict with the practices of the industry itself, and offers additional criticism on the list pitting schools against each other while promoting the publication’s educational courses. She also claims that the ranking system does not make a clear enough distinction between the individual graduate programs and their focus of expertise.”

And Parsons is finding friends in its effort. In connection with Fox’s statement, Jennifer Minniti, who is the chair of the fashion department at the New York-based Pratt Institute, said: “Thank you, Parsons! Pratt Fashion stands in solidarity with you. We also decided to no longer participate in the rankings created by BoF for the reasons you state and for how the rankings are distributed as a vehicle for communication via social media. Thank you again for being a leader and paving the way for progressive fashion education.”

Writing for Fashion United, Jackie Mallon, former Giorgio Armani and Moschino designer-turned-fashion academic, praised Parsons for the decision. “As a fashion instructor,” Mallon writes, “I could foresee how the desire to rate highly on this list, and advance from year to year, might become enmeshed with school morale, perceived legitimacy, donor satisfaction, and industry reputation all of which could potentially trickle down to affect the students’ learning experience.”

The annual BoF ranking, which was launched several years ago, “almost overnight became a standard bearer that no one publicly questioned,” per Mallon, who says that “it has been somewhat disheartening during these three years of the list’s existence to see respected century-old institutions regarded as commodities, being selected like players up for the NFL draft, that had swiftly become the new reality.”

A more “collaborative spirit” between institutions and their alumni, according to Mallon, “feels in tune with the Millennial and Gen Z mindsets and casts the Business of Fashion’s approach in an outdated light with, at its core, a clique mentality and peer pressure as its fuel.”

A spokesman for Parsons clarified that its BFA program will continue to partake in the rankings

A representative for BoF was not immediately available for comment.