I am one of those lackey translators Alfredo talks about who studied on the LRZTP.
I agree the program has its limitations, but rather than give up a huge segment of my life, it was only two years. It gave me enough of a basis to translate at least Basic level teachings of an excellent Lharampa Geshe. I have now worked with him for the past nearly 3 years and my Tibetan (both colloquial and Classical) has improved during that time. I have access to him for questions, we travel together to India, where I can meet various masters who I wouldn't have had access to without the language.
I finished my BA at UofT, and had to decide whether to try and study Tibetan there as either an upgrade to the BA or at the Masters level, or go with LRZTP. For my purposes (non academic, practitioner oriented), LTZTP was the better choice. I made the decision ironically because I saw one of the professors teaching Tibetan at the university could not hold a basic-level colloquial conversation in the language. Also, there was funding assistance for LRZTP and even if I had paid the full amount it would have been far cheaper than attending University courses with a teacher who could not even get around in colloquial Tibetan.
I am somewhat paralyzed by my lack of graduate-level education though. And the LRTZP program while good for basic level training for oral interpreters does not train one to translate texts really. However, the skills I learned during the program allowed me to form a close bond with the Geshe I translate for, and he guides me through texts during free periods, and I find my understanding of what I read and ability to put it into at least decent English prose increasing.
As for what you say about the Masters Program, I agree there are some weaknesses though your caustic language makes me feel you have some sort of hidden bias. Most MP graduates are not guaranteed a teaching position- I would agree with that. However, some of the most successful teachers in FPMT- Emily Hsu, Sixte Vincotte, Sangye Khandro, Wai Cheong Kok to name a few are fully supported, full-time residential teachers. Indeed, where there is a resident Geshe and an MP graduate teaching in the same centre, the MP graduate's courses are just as or more popular (at least, this is the case in Vajrayana Institute and Vajrayogini Institute).
What it comes down to in many cases is, is the teacher appealing? Both Lharampa Geshes at the centre I teach in in Holland have good turnout to their classes,and a solid base of students. BUt I have translated for or attended classes with Lharampa Geshes who are can never seem to build up a steady group of students. A lot of it comes down to charisma, and the personality of the teacher. If the Geshe is humble and willing to relate to Westerners on their own terms, they may well be successful. If they insist on being an aloof scholar and Tibetan cultural norms, this could hinder them.
Similarly, the most successful Western teachers are the ones who are able to present the very traditional information they learned in a Western context. If their studies make them fundamentalists a teaching career will not be very successful.
In terms of the exclusive Gelug approach, I agree that if people stop after the MP and never explore other avenues, they are severely limiting themselves. But if, as is the case with Glen Svensson for example, those studies lead to a good foundation especially in basic Sutra Paramitayana Buddhism, then exploration of Mahamudra and Dzogchen would be greatly enriched by that knowledge.
The program in Ithaca, AFAIK, is excellent but has not produced any Western teachers with stable positions at dharma centres at all. I work at an FPMT centre but my first teachers were not affiliated with it. Ironically, the lack of any type of structure at their centres made FPMT an attractive option for me, as I wanted to learn a skill that would enable me to contribute to a centre as a monk and help me avoid having to work an outside job in robes.
As for the sectarianism, here in Holland I have translated weekend courses for Geshe SN on Words of My Perfect Teacher and Parting From the Four Attachments. Next month there will be Precious Garland of the Supreme Path Offered. Since arriving here the courses on actual texts taught by Geshe la have been in the majority covering texts outside the Gelug tradition.
A foolish man proclaims his qualifications,
A wise man keeps them secret within.
A straw floats on the surface of water,
But a precious gem placed upon it sinks to the depths