Mumbai: Raunak Khera, a 22-year-old medical student has spent the last two years fighting for his right to return to his university in China to pursue his undergraduate degree in physical mode as opposed to online mode. Khera is among thousands of students who have been forced to pursue a degree online as the Chinese government has imposed a strict travel ban on students from various countries.
Given such incidents, the National Medical Commission (NMC) in February released circular warning students about the situation in China around the time admissions to undergraduate medical programs commenced in the country,
“Any prospective student needs to be aware that the government of China has imposed strict travel restrictions in the wake of Covid-19 and suspended all visas since November 2020. A large number of international students including many from India have not been able to return to China to continue their studies due to these restrictions,” states the NMC circular released on February 8.
It further highlights how the government of China has made it clear that all courses will continue online until further notice.
“The problem is that NMC does not recognise or approve medical courses done in online mode only, and therefore we are stuck. Neither the Chinese authorities nor the Indian government is helping us. However, these notifications are helpful for new MBBS aspirants to avoid a fate like ours,” said Khera, who along with other students has approached the Indian prime minister’s office in hope of some respite.
In the last two months, NMC has released a series of advisories addressed to medical and dental aspirants informing them about the adverse situations in other medical institutes/universities abroad.
On February 18, another NMC advisory warned students seeking admission in new medical institutes in Kyrgyzstan where nearly two hundred Indian students have already been admitted, but not a single student from Kyrgyzstan has been admitted.
“Allowing international students on the day of the launch also runs contrary to international norms requisite to enrol foreign students,” states the notification, which names fairly new institutes in Kyrgyzstan, including Avicenna University, Adam University, Royal Metro, Int’l Medical University, Salymbekow University and ABC, all that became functional in the last one year.
A similar advisory was released by NMC in January this year making students aware of a particular medical university in Armenia, after receiving complaints from several Indian students studying there at present.
“Over the years we have received several complaints from students pursuing medicine in smaller countries, only to be duped towards the end of their degree. We cannot force students to not go abroad for their education but by sharing such advisories, we hope to make them aware that there may be some supervisory, regulatory and infrastructural issues in these institutes that should not be overlooked before taking admissions there,” said a senior official from NMC.
The official further said that NMC has encountered several cases where students have completed their MBBS degree over five or six years in an obscure institute/university only to eventually fail the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination (FMGE) here, or even worse, not be eligible for the exam altogether.
“We hope to make more students aware of the problems of opting for institutes without proper background checks,” added the official.
For years, students with low scores in the all India medical entrance tests have opted to pursue their MBBS degree from universities in countries like Russia, China, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine for two reasons—low eligibility criteria and affordable tuition fees.
The ongoing war in Ukraine has brought attention to students who pursue their undergraduate medical degrees from Ukrainian universities with the hope of completing their courses economically.
“Highlighting names of colleges is a welcome move, much needed during admissions. Gullible parents and students get trapped in the lure of an MBBS degree, especially because of the low fees. Many send their children without enquiring the background of universities and lose out on money as well as years pursuing a degree, which is eventually not recognised here,” said Sudha Shenoy, an activist fighting for the rights of medical aspirants.
While the fees in government medical colleges in India is affordable, many students who cannot afford the fees of private or deemed medical institutes usually opt for education in smaller countries.
Fees in private and deemed-to-be medical colleges range anywhere between ₹25 lakh to nearly ₹1 crore for the 4.5 years (minus one-year internship) MBBS course in India. This has pushed several aspirants to opt for colleges in countries including China, Russia, Ukraine as well as Uzbekistan, where the course can be completed in ₹25-30 lakh.
Parents and medical education experts have time and again called for strict action against agents/touts offering admission to desperate students. “The main culprits are these touts who lure students to such obscure universities, taking advantage of their low scores and financial constraints,” added Shenoy.