With the beginning of the admission process for MBBS courses in medical colleges in Russia, Indian students are upbeat in filling up application forms and aspiring to obtain a foreign degree.
After the Indian medical education regulator, National Medical Commission (NMC) enacted new norms and made it literally impossible for Indian students to practice medicine in India after completing MBBS courses abroad, it was expected that there would be no takers of medical courses in foreign universities.
However, the on-ground reality seems to be otherwise. Many Russian colleges that admit students through entrance tests, have started receiving applications from Indian students and they will start offering admissions from the end of July.
The NMC’s stringent norms seem to have little impact because a majority of students and parents are either unaware of it or being misled by the counsellors and coordinators.
“Consultants, who are working in collaboration with colleges abroad, are persuading students and parents that they can get all the norms fulfilled which is a misleading claim,” an education counsellor said requesting anonymity.
He added, “For instance, one of the NMC’s norms says that a candidate should get a license from the competent authority to practice in a country from where he or she is completing the MBBS course. No university can give this assurance that they will help get such a license.”
Another counsellor, who works for multiple CIS counties, reveals, “Agents are interpreting NMC’s norm in such a way that candidates can be made to believe that there is no risk in going abroad.”
He added, “It is very difficult to pass both viva and written examination to get a licence to practice in Russia because it is in the Russian language. Secondly, even if a student clears it, there is no assurance that he or she will get a work visa to practice. But agents are not disclosing these challenges.”
According to an estimate, every year around 10,000 students go abroad to study medical education in various countries such as Russia, China, Philippines, Bangladesh, Georgia, Nepal, Ukraine, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan among others.
The majority of medical colleges in these countries have started claiming that they have amended their course curriculum in accordance with the NMC’s norms however offering mandatory registration to practice in the country is beyond their mandate.
On November 18, 2021, NMC enacted Foreign Medical Graduate Licentiate Regulations 2021 and amended the earlier ones.
As per the amended regulations, medical education in foreign countries should have — (i) A minimum duration of 54 months; (ii) An internship of a minimum of 12 months in the same foreign medical institution; (iii) English as the medium of instruction; iv) The same curriculum as prescribed by the NMC in India; (v) Mandatory registration of medical practitioners in the country from where they have obtained the foreign medical degree; and (vi) Additional internship for a minimum of 12 months after returning to India. Even the Supreme Court of India has put its stamp of approval on these norms.
If a candidate doesn’t fulfil all the criteria, he or she will not be allowed to sit in the Exit Exam which is essential to clear to practice MBBS in India. Out of all the above-mentioned six conditions, the most challenging is to obtain a mandatory licence to practice.
Medical experts say that the reason for incorporating the ‘mandatory registration clause’ in the FMG Licentiate Regulations is that many foreign countries used to practice differential medical education systems in which they follow strict regulatory norms for their own students but compromise with training and facilities for international students, including Indians.
They argue that medical colleges in these countries calculate their profits and return on investment by compromising on the standards of establishing a medical institution, faculty and skill training as they know that these doctors (foreign students) have to go back to their own country to work.
“Now when these countries know that they have to give license to practice medicine to Indian students in their own respective countries, they will not compromise with the education and training,” a senior doctor associated with the erstwhile regulator Medical Council of India (MCI) said.
However, a section of experts and education counsellors opposes the mandatory registration clause on the ground that offering such registration is always subject to the immigration policy and job situation of the particular country.
For instance, a response to an application under the Right To Information Act (RTI) by the Indian Embassy in Russia clarifies that offering registration to practice is subject to immigration laws.
Replying to an application of Anuj Goyal, who is an education counsellor and who asked about the registration process for medical graduates in Russia, the Indian embassy in Russia wrote to him, “An India student who successfully completes a medicine program in Russia would be eligible to practice in Russia if the student cleared special examination for licence conducted by the same university where the individual studied, subject to obtaining a work permit from the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs.”
“The response of the India embassy in Russia clearly suggests that even if a candidate cleared the special licence exam conducted by the degree-granting university but if he or she doesn’t get a work permit from the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, he will not get the licence to practice,” Goyal said.
After November 18, 2021, thousands of students have already gone to many countries because no one was aware of the implication of the new FMG regulation. But today when the apex court has granted its approval and everyone is aware of the impact, a lot of students and parents still continue to be gullible.
Parents say that they don’t understand these complicated legal provisions and they want to go by what colleges and their agents say. “My counsellor has promised me that my son will get the licence even if he doesn’t get a work permit. This is good enough to return to India and appear for Exit Test,” a parent, whose son has filled up the application form for admission to a medical college in Russia, said.
“I think by the time the students will realise their mistake, it is too late and they might have lost their parent’s hard-earned money and some precious years of their career,” a Delhi-based education consultant said adding that he has stopped sending students abroad from the day he became aware of these regulations.