I have spent my career running Microsoft networks.
Not once have I ever felt hindered by not having a Microsoft certification.
And, anecdotally, though I'm sure there are many MCSE's out there with good skills, I only really hear the term in interviews now. The last two times in the manner of "Do you have any MCSE or other certifications?", "No, just fifteen years experience.", "Oh, good... the last guy we hired who said he had all the certifications was just rubbish and did X, Y and Z...."
Honestly. I tell no lie. I was hired in two interviews with a major factor being that I actually asked if their previous guy's MCSE's had made them a better IT guy. Both times the answer was no, and both times the employer actually reeled off a list of people they knew with MCSE's who they regretted hiring.
And why? Because of this reason. It's memorising how to click the new icon that's appeared in Windows 8 whereas before it used to be underneath another icon, or vice versa. The questions teach you how to USE a computer, not manage it. And when they do veer into technicalities, it's so Microsoft focused as to be useless.
I was working with another IT Manager a few months ago, and he was hiring a technician. He had a little practical test, a little written test, and an interview. He shared with me the results of the tests and asked my opinions because, literally, they were SO BAD that he couldn't decide but was being made to by his circumstances. People didn't know what RAID was. They couldn't explain the simplest of technologies. They have no idea about what order to do things in, or even Microsoft-specific stuff like how to do the simplest of management on an AD.
The questions on "common problems" that occur MS networks, the answers were hilarious. People didn't know how to reset a profile,or a password. They had literally memorised the path, and done it so long ago it had got corrupted in their heads, and the answers were junk. What we were looking for was NOT a menu-selection, but a general overview of the process - we don't care WHERE the menu is, you'll find it if you know what it does, or you can Google it at worst. We care that you know what clearing a profile means, what the implications are, when you should and should not do it, and most importantly that you TAKE A BACKUP (whether explicitly, by keeping a shadow copy, by renaming the folder, etc.).
MCSE doesn't furnish you with any IT skills that are useful. I could teach a teenager everything in MCSE in a few weeks, and most of it would probably NEVER come up if they were actually working with me. The bits that did, I bet they could Google quite easily and find a more comprehensive and reliable tutorial in seconds.
The guy doing the hiring, though - the only technician he had was a young lad who'd done A-Level's, worked a bit for his uncle, and then had to find a real job and ended up in the IT department. He was fabulous. Quite learner, very keen, even touched on programming etc. while I was there because he was trying to suck all the knowledge he could out of us. And didn't have a single IT qualification to his name.
The guy they ended up hiring. All the certs. Left in a month, and had been nothing but trouble in between. And the young lad was so scared of being ignored for promotion etc. because of the age/experience/certs that that guy had.
Dumb employers with no sense of actual IT might request an MCSE. I get that. If you don't know the industry, a certification looks good. But, like I say, it's like a guy with a McDonald's Chef Certificate applying to run your businesses kitchen (or, in some cases, a catering business or even a posh restaurant). I don't have one and have never had a problem explaining it. If it ever took two sentences, I probably wouldn't ever want to work for such a company anyway.
In all the places I've worked, freelance and employed, they don't particularly care - mainly because experience has showed them that it has more correlation with £699 in spare cash, time on your hands and a gap on your CV than anything to do with IT skills. Some places have asked if I wanted to do it as part of training. I politely declined each time. When they ask why, I show them the course content which, if I couldn't do, I wouldn't be able to do the job they asked me to do.
I fear that making them "more rigorous" will just be a matter of more obscure questions, because the marking still has to be "easy to do" and the training for it still has to be given by people who've never managed a network in their life.
If I were Microsoft, I wouldn't continue with MCSE, I'd change the name entirely and reinvent it. Because everywhere I go, MCSE has a bad name. Most of the people in my position that I ask about such things, they are ashamed to admit they have one, and quickly qualify it with "Oh, well, my employer made me take it, and they were paying, and it was a couple of days off so..."