Indian students, evacuated from war-torn Ukraine, arrive at the IGI airport, in New Delhi. (PTI)
Thousands of Indian students in Ukraine have been caught in the crossfire following Russia’s attack on that country and a fourth-year medical student
from Karnataka lost his life in the shelling in Kharkiv city. The fact that so many Indians are studying in Ukraine has come as a surprise to many. But this is not a new development.
Every year, a sizeable number of Indian students, especially medical aspirants, go to countries like Ukraine, Armenia, Russia and China to study undergraduate medical courses. They go to these places despite the fact that a foreign medical degree will not give them the license to treat patients in India unless they pass the tough Foreign Medical Graduates Exam (FMGE) conducted by the National Board of Examinations in Medical Sciences (NBEMS) here.
We spoke to a few senior doctors associated with medical colleges about this trend of opting for foreign universities to study medicine.
LACK OF SEATS
Dr CV Rao, former vice-chancellor of NTR University of Health Sciences, Andhra Pradesh, and director of Gitam Institute of Medical Sciences and Research (GIMSR), says, "Most middle class families want their children to be doctors for two reasons — it’s a highly prestigious profession and secondly, doctors can set up independent clinics for a livelihood. But the number of medical aspirants in India runs into several lakhs while avail able medical seats are barely a lakh.
Also, there is a gross disparity between the affordable fees in government medical colleges and the exorbitant fees demanded by private medical colleges. While the former charge just a few thousand rupees per year, the latter charge anything from lakhs to a crore of rupees because there is no cap on fees."
Why Ukraine is a favoured...
He commends Andhra Pradesh and Telangana for reserving around 50% seats in private colleges with fees on par with gov ernment medical colleges. Pointing out that B category open seats constitute 35% seats and cost over Rs 60 lakh for a five-and a-half-year course and C Category seats for NRIs can cost upto Rs 1 crore, he says, "Middle class students without reservation cannot afford the B or C category seats. But without any long term plan or preparation, they can study in Ukraine, Russia or something noteworthy
In China, most medical colleges have 450-500 seats, whereas each Indian medical college can accommodate just 150-200 students per year, Dr. Rao noted.
Stressing the need for affordable medical education in India, he said, "The government needs to increase the number of seats in medical colleges and provide good infrastructure. Fees charged by private medical colleges should be capped at real istic rates. The government should also encourage and facili tate the setting up of private medical colleges without too many regulations like being attached to 300-bed hospitals."
THE DEMAND-SUPPLY GAP IS A DETERRENT FOR MERITORIOUS STUDENTS
Dr P V Sudhakar, former principal of Andhra Medical College and head of the department of plastic surgery at Government King George Hospital, Vizag, says, "There are around 542 medical colleges apart from 64 stand-alone PG institutes recognized by the Medical Council of India. Each medical college has 100-250 UG seats. That means approximately one lakh medical seats, while the MBBS aspirants per year are around ten times more. Besides, 50% seats are reserved for ST/SC/OBCs etc. Chances of a general category candidate securing a seat come down drastically automatically."
Pointing out that only a handful of such students can get seats in government medical colleges where the fees are affordable, he said the remaining meritorious students are left with no option but to study abroad in countries like Ukraine, Russia, Philippines and China where medical education is far cheaper and there is no system of reservation. The standard of medical education in India is quite high and the MCI has identified certain institutes in the world which are recognized in India provided the medicos pass the FMGE after they return to the country, adds Dr Sudhakar.
LOW FEES AND COST OF LIVING ATTRACT INDIAN MEDICAL ASPIRANTS
Dr Sunil Bidayat, vice-president, medical administration, Yashoda Group of Hospitals, Hyderabad (also a 2002 alumni of Kharkiv Medical College and University in Ukraine) says, "I studied medicine in Kharkiv, Ukraine, over two decades ago, and even then there were several Indian students there, mostly from Punjab and Delhi. Around 60 % were from North India and the rest from the Southern states. The ratio of girl students and boy students was almost equal.
There was no entrance examination for admission in government-run medical institutes in Ukraine, whereas in India, competition for limited seats is very stiff and even passing an entrance test would not guarantee a desired seat. The cost of education in Ukraine is one-third of that in Indian private medical colleges and the cost of living is low too."
Giving details, he says, "We had the choice of English as the medium of instruction and faced no racial discrimination. The locals and foreigners all study together. The people are friendly and have an open culture and the Ukrainian govern ment is welcoming towards Asians."
He, however, notes that after his return to India, he had to pass the tough FMGE before he could register himself as a practising doctor.