The doctor dreams up in smoke for many as Covid and the war deal two blows

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New Delhi: Bhoomi Tripathi fears that her dream of becoming an MBBS doctor may remain just that. The 20-year-old from Varanasi has been trying to get admission to foreign medical universities since graduating from school three years ago. But the Russia-Ukraine war has now drastically reduced their options. And she’s considering dropping the idea entirely.

“China stopped issuing visas to Indian students after the pandemic. Security concerns have become a deterrent in Ukraine. And Russia has bilingual education,” Tripathi told ThePrint. “Affordable education opportunities for Indian medical students are shrinking. Egypt is my only hope for now. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll get admission to any BSc program here in India.”

She said many of her friends are opting for alternative science courses this year as foreign medical options seem fewer.

The National Medical Commission (NMC), the regulatory body in India for medical education and healthcare professionals, has devices Students opposed applying to Chinese universities after the Chinese government stopped issuing visas to students amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Russian universities mostly offer bilingual courses, making them unacceptable according to the latest NMC guidelines, which mandate English as the only language of instruction. In addition, the NMC in its latest notification advised students not to apply to universities in Kyrgyzstan, another former constituent part of the USSR, last month,”after it became known that many students overlook the prudential, regulatory and infrastructural problems in these institutions.

Now the Russian invasion has also excluded Ukraine.

Advisors claim that students are now having to shell out more money as the cheapest options are hard to come by.

A medical degree in Ukraine costs Rs 15,000-17,000 for a six-year course – much cheaper than private medical colleges in India, which charge between Rs 30,000 and Rs 1.5 million. In Russia the cost varies from Rs 20 lakh to Rs 27 lakh while in Georgia it ranges from Rs 35 lakh to 45 lakh. The cost a China is up to Rs 3 lakh annually.

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In contrast, Countries like UAE and Germany offer medical education at relatively higher cost, ranging from Rs 60,000 to 90,000, making it almost as expensive as private colleges in India.

Added to this is the factor of easy approval.

For admission to medical colleges in Ukraine, Indian students need a NEET score of 135-150 out of a total of 720 and a qualifying percentage of 60+ in Class 12. Countries like China, Russia and Georgia have similar cutoffs. But in order to gain admission to the best public colleges in India like All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), a student must get over 650 points in NEET and at the same time good results in class 12 exams.

Prince, a 32-year-old seeking medical training for his 21-year-old brother, has a similar story to Tripathi.

“We cannot afford private medical training in India, so we are considering foreign universities. The war in Ukraine upset our plans. Other countries are significantly more expensive than Ukraine,” says the resident of Uttar Pradesh.


Also read: ‘Guns at Arms Asked Why You Don’t Join Our Fight’: Indian Students Recall Nightmare of Leaving Ukraine


Why students go abroad

according to a government response in Parliament in 2020, India offers a total of 82,926 MBBS places in 541 medical colleges, including 278 state and 263 private institutes. For perspective, in 2021, over 16 lakh students appeared for the NEET exam.

Credit: ThePrint
Credit: ThePrint

As a result, students seek private medical training abroad.

Government data submitted to Parliament in 2021 showed that there were 2.19 lakh Indian students in UAE, 2.16 lakh in Canada, 2.12 lakh in US, 23,000 in China, 18,000 in Ukraine, 16,500 in Russia, 15,000 in the Philippines and 7,500 in Georgia, 5,300 in Kazakhstan, 5,200 in Bangladesh and 2,200 in Nepal. These numbers are not strictly related to medicine and therefore the list includes countries that are not attractive to medical students.

but With China, Russia and Ukraine out of the mix and Kazakhstan facing NMC restrictions, foreign options are becoming increasingly difficult, education advisers in Delhi say.

“According to the latest NMC guidelines, countries like Kazakhstan, Russia, etc. are no longer a lucrative option for Indian students… NMC requires that the entire medical course be taught in English,” said Tribhuwan Singh, Advisor at Edunial Infotech Group.

“Most Russian universities have a bilingual program and several Kazakh universities were blacklisted by the NMC in 2021, further limiting student options.”

Nations like Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Georgia and Belarus are favored by students over India’s neighboring countries like Nepal and Bangladesh because of the large uptake at their universities.

“The reason these countries were popular travel destinations was not just because they are pocket-friendly, but because of the type of seats they have. Medical universities in Nepal have about 600 places for foreigners, Bangladesh has about 1,100 such places, China has about 2,900 places, Egypt has about 500 places,” said Dipendra Chauby of Hope Consultants.

“On the other hand, countries like Russia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan have 500 to 1,000 places per university, leading to a mass movement of Indian students to these countries,” he added.

Chaubey claimed that the trend of Indian students going to Ukraine only started in 2014. Before that, China, Russia and Nepal were the most sought-after options since 1999.

In addition, several training Web pages mention that universities in these countries offer quality education compared to private universities in India.

according to a reportIn 2018, the Medical Council of India, which preceded the NMC as the regulatory body, had issued 3,386 more registration certificates for foreign medical candidates (17.504) tHan in 2017 (14.118), shows an increase of about 24 percent in the number of students going abroad.

Despite the worsening situation in Ukraine, DSA Global’s Tejendar Singh is optimistic and says if the war stops in a few months, students will most likely apply for admission in the country, which starts admissions in September.


Also read: War between Russia and Ukraine puts Indo-Pacific in ‘risky’ precedence, says EU envoy to India


Rules for students and what happens to them when they return

the NMC Guidelines published in November 2021, important rules for foreign medical students are listed, including that the entire course abroad should be held in English.

The other requirement is that students must complete the MBBS course in 54 months (4.5 years), along with a 12-month internship at the same foreign university.

The other mandate states that after clearing NEET in India and completing their foreign education, the students must be eligible to practice in the country of their education, which means they should be a registered doctor there.

All students earning a medical qualification from certain countries are required to pass the Foreign Medical Graduates’ Exam (FMGE) under the Indian Medical Council Act 1956 in order to practice in India.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs DataIn 2009, 6,170 students with medical degrees from foreign institutions appeared for the FMGE. By 2018, that number had tripled to 21,351.

However, the percentage of students presenting for the FMGE was very low, staying under 20 percent.

Uncertainty and loss for returnees

With global security potentially threatened for an uncertain period, the road ahead is rocky for those students who have already returned to India and dropped out of their education midway.

Sumit, 22, who lives in Panipat, said online classes could become the new reality starting March 12 when his Ukrainian college reopens. He hopes that Ukrainian universities will issue some kind of guideline on this.

“During Covid we were struggling and classes were moved online… Now we have been promised again that our course will be online. This took our internship or practical experience away from us. All of our learning is theoretical at this point, which is a huge loss for us,” said the fifth-year medical student.

“Our future is now shrouded in uncertainty. We don’t know if we’ll qualify for the Indian medical exam without the practical experience,” said another student, who declined to be named.

The 21-year-old added that students returning to Ukraine hope the Indian government will take their circumstances into account and make arrangements for their further education.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)


Also read: PM Modi is calling on stakeholders to speed up the establishment of the digital university, saying it will solve the “seats problem”.


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