Thousands of students from India go abroad to study medicine every year. One key factor driving this trend is that pursuing an MBBS is relatively cheaper in several other countries. But there’s also the fact that it is easier to get into one of these foreign colleges than into medical colleges in India where there is intense competition for limited seats.
China, Russia and Ukraine in that order account for about 60% of the outflow, with China alone often about a third. The fees for the entire MBBS course, which is typically six years abroad, including living expenses and the cost of coaching to clear the screening test on return to India, would cost about Rs 35 lakh in a fairly decent college in one of these countries. In comparison, just the tuition fees for the MBBS course in private medical colleges in India typically costs Rs. 45 lakh to Rs 55 lakh or even more.
It is estimated that 20,000-25,000 students go abroad to study medicine each year. While affordability is a factor, study medicine each year. While affordability is a factor, clearly the demand-supply gap in medical seats is just as much a reason. For the seven to eight lakh students who qualify through NEET, the entrance exam for medicine, there are only 90,000 plus seats in India.
A little over half the seats are in government colleges, which might be affordable but are extremely difficult to get into unless one has a very high NEET score. Even government quota seats in private medical colleges, which are relatively more affordable than management quota seats, require high NEET scores.
Other than these, there are only about 20,000 management quota seats available in private colleges. The NRI quota is in theory open even to those who are not non-resident if they are sponsored by an NRI, but the sky high fees mean they are out of reach of all but a select few of NEET qualified students. The fees alone for management and NRI quota seats range from roughly Rs 30 lakh to over Rs 1. 2 crore for the whole 4.5 year course.
And that’s just the course fees. A whole host of other cult with a very low pass percentage ranging from 14% to 20% from year to year. After clearing the test, the FMGs are expected to do one-year internship in a hospital in India.
“Students from many private medical colleges in India and foreign medical graduates who have cleared the screening test do internship in our hospital. To be honest, there isn’t that much difference in the quality of graduates. There are extremely poor quality graduates among those from Indian private medical colleges just as there are among foreign graduates who have cleared the screening test,” said the medical superintendent of a hospital that is part of the panel of hospitals identified for foreign students to do internship.
“The screening test is tough and I don’t think many MBBS students, especially those from private medical colleges in India with poor training and teaching, will clear this exam. The proposed licensing exam for all MBBS graduates to be started in 2023, if made common for Indian and foreign- trained students, will reveal this. That is why there is a concerted effort to prevent the bringing in of a common exam. Once it becomes clear that students studying abroad do as well or as badly as those in poor quality medical colleges in India, many of them in India will have to shut shop as there will be an even bigger exodus to foreign universities,” said a faculty member of a government medical college in India.
“There are poor quality medical colleges abroad too. Indian students often do not do enough research or are lured by unethical consultants and end up in such places. These students repeatedly fail to clear the screening test and finally change streams to take up courses like masters in hospital administration. A licensing exam would ensure that such students do not get a licence to practice. But the exam ought to be the same for all, Indian and foreign graduates,” said a senior doctor who often travels to various universities abroad to teach Indian Students .