Time and again the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) has gone through changes. The latest addition being conducting a single UG medical entrance test, NEET in place of AIIMS and JIPMER from 2020. There is a vast disparity in the number of MBBS seats available in india and medical aspirants. In 2019 around 15.19 lakh aspirants registered for NEET UG competing for mere 67,352 MBBS seats in India. That is around 22 students competing for 1 single seat.
In such a competitive environment, it becomes difficult to secure a seat in an Indian government college. Further students either drop a year, opt for management quota, choose an alternative field of study or select an offshore study destination. In recent times more and more Indian students look to go abroad to pursue medical education.
● Medical Council of India (MCI), the regulatory body of medical education in India has now made NEET mandatory for studying MBBS abroad.
● The validity of NEET scores was increased to 3 years for pursuing Undergraduate medical course offshore.
● On an average 7,000 Indian students go abroad to study medicine annually.
China, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, the Philippines, Georgia and Nepal are some of the destinations preferred by Indian students with the aim to join a medical institute. Dr Jayashree Mehta Former head of MCI, stated “There are two sets of students applying for MBBS abroad. One set of students aim to get into top prestigious medical schools and other are those who could not manage to grab a seat in government medical college. Private colleges are at times so expensive that students tend to prefer other Asian countries”.
In 2018, MCI amended the eligibility requirements for taking admission in an undergraduate medical course in a foreign medical institution regulation 2002. Indian Citizens/OCI aiming to pursue MBBS or equivalent medical course from an institute outside the country have to mandatory qualify NEET. Effective from 2019, the scores will be treated as eligibility certificate for taking admission overseas. The step was taken to ensure quality of students going abroad for primary medical education.
In addition to these changes, MCI in 2019 increased the validity of NEET score for undergraduate foreign medical degree to 3 years. This will provide students more time to prepare and process admissions to an international university. Earlier their eas an ambiguity related to validity and utilization of NEET score abroad. Generally it takes 6-12 months to cut through most of the institutes abroad. Visa and finance procedures may take much of the time. Students clearing NEET in a specified year and . getting admission to a foreign university next year leaves them in jeopardy. The three years caping will prevent students missing out on their admissions abroad.
Is Studying Medicine Abroad a Viable Option?
Due to cut throat competition in NEET, several medical aspirants are not able to secure a seat. Thus instead of dropping a year, students prefer to study abroad at lower fees and quality education. MCI has recognised 460 colleges in India offering MBBS courses. In comparison, MBBS degrees from 200+ institutes across the globe are recognised by MCI, which is a considerable number of options.
Foreign medical education has become a viable option for students primarily due to lack of seats in government colleges and poor return on investment in private medical colleges. Moreover, affordable fees, enhanced curriculum and technological advancement has made studying medicine abroad a feasible option for indian students. Most countries offer postgraduate opportunity, students willing to study further and obtain a permanent residency can look for these options as well.
Lower cost as compared to Indian private colleges
Students choose to study abroad because of feasible fee structure compared to Indian private colleges. Average fee for MBBS course in a private university is round Rs 64 lakh compared to Rs 4 lakh in government colleges. This fee structure is very high when compared with the fee structure of colleges abroad. Also, some of the foreign universities offer scholarship programs to students, which helps them in managing their finances. Here is a glimpse of comparative fee structure of some Indian private medical college and medical colleges abroad:
|Indian Private College||Fees (annual LPA)||Colleges abroad||Fees (annual LPA)|
|Kasturba Medical College||INR 1,310,000||Jilin University, China||INR 2,90,000|
|Ramaiah Medical College||INR 4,000,000||Devdaha Medical College, Nepal||INR 4,41,763|
|SRM Medical College & research center||INR 2,200,000||Bukovinian State Medical University, Ukraine||INR 3,19,860/|
|Hamdard Institute of Medical Sciences||INR 1,062,000||Kazan State Medical University, Russia||INR 3,50,000|
Challenges of studying Medicine Abroad?
1. Unscrupulous educational consultancies
Exploiting the regulation of making NEET mandatory, consultancies mislead the students with fake promises of admissions to MBBS course abroad. However they hide the fact that the degree will not be valid in India, making students ineligible for Foreign Medical Graduate Examination (FMGE). It is observed that many a times students are misguided to take admission in a sub-standard college without proper infrastructure, facilities or academic environment.
2. Finding the recognised college and destination: Ending up having an MBBS degree from an institute abroad which is not recognised by MCI can be strenuous. It is mandatory to be aware if the university you are willing to apply is recognised back in India. Only 14% of students who studied abroad have cleared FMGE in past 6 years.Hence seek for colleges that provide training for clearing FMGE. While deciding to study in an overseas medical institute, candidates should have an eye for the country’s disease pattern. Its a key parameter as a similar disease pattern offers chances to come back to India and practice medicine well. Furthermore, factors like food,language,climate pattern should be considered by students.
3. Clearing FMGE: License to practice medicine in India
Medical graduates except those who have acquired their degree from the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have to compulsorily sit for FMGE. The pass percentage of Foreign medical students in FMGE has been abysmal in the past few years. In 2018, only 15% of students who took the exam made through it. In addition to this, one year internship in a recognised Indian medical college is necessary to attain registration in India . This exam is compulsory for all foreign university graduate students who want to practice medicine in India. FMGE has announced the dates of December 2019 session exam. It is a computer-based exam that will be conducted on December 20th, 2019.
|Year||Pass Percentage of FMGE|
4. Getting a student VISA
Getting a student VISA is not very easy. Students are supposed to go through a long process to get this VISA. The criteria of getting a student VISA to vary as per the rules and regulations of different countries.
● If you are planning to study in Canada then IELTS or TOFEL is mandatory because apart from other skills they also want to judge you on the command over the English Language.
● Students have to collect and prepare all the necessary documents which are required or asked by the University and submit them to the university. You may also have to visit the embassy of both the countries to collect all the documents.
● If applied for Russian University then you have to register your VISA within 72 hours after reaching the country, which sometimes students fail to do due to the reasons like jet lag, no idea of directions, get busy in the further admission process, etc.
Student VISA with duration of stay:
|Country||Duration of VISA|
|China – X1 VISA||For students planning to study in China for more than 6 months|
|Russia Student VISA||Maximum 1 Year, can be extended later|
|Nepal Student VISA||Maximum 1 Year, can be extended later|
|Ukraine Student VISA||Depending on the duration of the course|
5. Screening Tests Foreign universities
Asian countries are a preference of Indian medical aspirants, the hurdle is some medical universities abroad selects students according to their own eligibility criteria which involve a screening test. For instance, some Chinese universities like Jilin University, Nanjing Medical University selects students by conducting an online screening tests. Since NEET has been made mandatory now, these screening tests would probably be discontinued. In Ukraine, some of the best medical colleges prefer to take a screening test before offering admissions. The test could be an online objective test or an interview on Skype. As per the general belief, these tests are easy in comparison to NEET.
India is one of the largest contributors of doctors to the world. There are around 47,000 Indian doctors practicing in the US and 25,000 in the UK. Making NEET mandatory for students who wish to pursue medicine abroad poses the problem of double screening test, as getting registered back in India through FMGE is a difficult process. But increasing the validity of NEET score to 3 years is a step forward to resolve the issue of mismatch between the indian academic sessions and admission cycles of foreign universities. Lack of seats, high cut off, poor medical infrastructure and equipment availability, soaring fees of private colleges and low return on investment are some of the challenges that plague medical education in India. Hopefully, changes brought about in NEET will resolve the perplexity that medical aspirants go through.