The estimated 15000-20000 medical students from India who returned home following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February this year, seems, have exhausted all options as some of them have started journey back to their universities in Ukraine to complete their course by complying with various directives by Ukrainian authorities.
Even as the NEET UG 2022 results for more than 18 lakh aspirants were declared, how thousands of students who cannot get accommodated in India’s medical colleges, will fulfil their dream of becoming doctors after having spent so much time, effort and money on test prep and studies, is going to be a different story in absence of Ukraine as a popular destination and China turning a scary place after it refused to take back students following Covid pandemic closures.
The Ukraine retunees who have moved everything from government to political class, opinion commentators and finally the highest court in the country, still have to grapple with a loss of learning. While the Ukrainian universities facilitated by Govt of India did allow final year students to do their online studies and complete final year and residency in India, those in first, second and third year continue to face tough time and uncertainty. The Ukrainian authorities have allowed migration to only compatible institutions outside Ukraine, which turn out to be very few.
Back in India, the Government stand that colleges here won’t be able to accommodate these many students was endorsed by the Supreme Court. The Union Health Ministry had earlier filed an affidavit in the court, saying that it had already introduced some “proactive measures to assist the returnee students” and that any further relaxation, including transfer to medical colleges in India, would be “dehors (outside the scope) of the provisions of Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, and National Medical Commission (NMC) Act, 2019”. Allowing such transfers would also seriously hamper the standards of medical education in India.
Now the Supreme Court has directed the Government to consider setting up an online portal that will have details of foreign colleges/universities where Indian students, who were pursuing undergraduate medical courses in Ukraine and had to return due to the war, can take admission to continue their studies.
So effectively, the battle of these students is now their own and one of resilience, stock taking, looking at alternatives and preparing for future life. The whole saga is also full of lessons for future aspirants and those who are looking at study abroad medicine education.
On the domestic front, again, the non-implementation of the NMC Guidelines for fee regulation wherein it was recommended to reduce the fee for 50 per cent seats from private medical colleges and deemed universities by bringing them at par with fees charged by the government medical colleges in respective states and union territories, due to the matter being in the Supreme Court on petition by the Association of Health Sciences Institutes (AHSI) is also a big concern for this year’s aspirant students.
The NEET UG was declared on Sep 8 but still the fee structures have not been notified. If the guidelines are implemented, it is but natural that fee for 50% seats in private colleges will be hiked and will that hike be exuberant? The answer will again be the basis for either making private education more costly in India or setting hordes of students to regions and destination not compatible in terms of living, standards, language and finally employability and practice. So, all stakeholders must work under a vision to boost medical education and not wreck it. Remember, India can potentially be a hot destination for medical education for the whole world if we handle this crisis carefully.