Over 18000 Indian medical students have been left with a bleak future ahead of themselves in the wake of the Ukraine war which forced them to abandon their education. With no end to the war at sight and time being of the essence, many of these students are now struggling for solutions and are out in the streets protesting for answers. “I was surprised to know that such a large number of students are pursuing medical education in countries like China, Ukraine, Philippines and Bangladesh. This paints a worrying picture about the state of medical education in the country and the fate of these students whose education has been disrupted by both the pandemic and the Ukraine crisis”, said Vineet Gupta, Founder of Ashoka University. All eyes are now on the National Medical Commission, the body which regulates medical education and professionals in what can be done to accommodate these students.
The issues with the current policy and why we need more flexibility
The Indian Medical Education Policy doesn’t have any provisions for accommodating these affected students because there is a dearth of medical seats in the country and lakhs of students every year are forced to compete for limited seats. If students don’t rank well in NEET, they are either forced to pay exorbitant fees for a private seat or go abroad. The complications arise when these students return after completing their education as they have to take the Foreign Medical Graduates Exam (FMGE) which is a must, if they want to practice medicine in India. “Cost of medical education being far cheaper in a lot of foreign nations than in India is a major factor for students preferring to move abroad despite the difficult FMGE. On an average only 20% of the students who take the FMGE end up clearing it, which is again a worrying number given the time and effort students take to get to that point.” pointed out Vineet Gupta, Ashoka University’s Founder.
Some state governments have started accommodating the Ukraine returnees who are in their final year as observers since medical education cannot be completed without practical exposure. This is somewhat of a relief for the final year students but the rest are left in a lurch. Even the final year students would rather prefer a more permanent fix from the government. While online classes have resumed for some Ukrainian universities, no doctor is made without practical exposure and the students are well aware of this. They are also not keen on paying such high fees without actually physically being present in Ukraine. Some other universities in countries such as Russia, Georgia, Moldova etc. have offered to take in these students but studying in those nations could come with its own set of complications.
The Way Forward
“There is a huge demand for doctors in the country but neither are we producing enough of them nor are we building the capacity required to produce quality doctors. This can be improved by an intervention by the authorities which allows public and private institutions to work together on affiliation basis to set up more medical institutes in the country with attractive fees, so that more students prefer to pursue their education in India. For the current lot who are affected by the crisis, accommodating them in Indian colleges seems improbable so, the government should look to diplomatically find a solution for these students and place them in foreign universities which are ready to accept them. If possible, fee should be subsidized for those who could face huge financial strain because of the transfer. A one-time relaxation or deferring of the FMGE could also be a solution for the present final year students, giving them more time to complete their education and then prepare for the exam.”, concluded Vineet Gupta.