In India, where every other parent wants their child to become a doctor, a long-standing trend has created cut-throat competition to secure a medical seat in the country, forcing a good number of students to pursue their medical goals in other foreign countries.
A stark disparity between the number of seats available in the country and the number of students that appear for the NEET UG exam, is one of the obvious reasons for the popularity of MBBS abroad.
As per the data released by the National Testing Agency (NTA), the number of students that appeared at NEET 2023 are at par, more than 20 lakh students, meanwhile there are only around 10,1188 MBBS seats available in medical colleges across India according to data on the NMC website for 2022-23.
Indian students argue that not being able to secure medical seats is not the only exigent reason why they opt to study medicine abroad.
According to the latest data from the Ministry of Education, more than 7,70,000 Indian students opted to pursue their academics abroad in 2022, setting the highest record since 2017.
To find out why students pursue medical education in other countries and how it differs from India, The Free Press Journal reached out to Indian students who are currently pursuing their MBBS degree in other countries.
Countries like China, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, to name a few, that offer medical education at a much more reasonable cost than India, are becoming a common destination for Indian medical aspirants.
“The competition is the major reason behind more and more students choosing to go for foreign medical institutes. Many students, in spite of being capable and smart enough, cannot get the medical seat of their choice in India unless they take one or two drop years. Being afraid of letting these years go to vain, pursuing the same course abroad seems the only option,” explained Rakshita Rhatore, a first-year medical student at Anhui Medical University, in Georgia.
The students also highlighted that taking up coaching for NEET preparation has become extremely common leading to higher competition.
Abhinav Mehta, another student from Anhui Medical University and a former student of Kharkiv National Medical University, Ukraine, explained, “The reason is simple. Everyone wants to be a doctor in India and the seats are just not enough.”
While there is cut-throat competition for government medical seats in India, private medical seats are unaffordable for many.
"Private medical seats in India charge anywhere between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 1 crore as tuition fees for a duration of five and a half years," says Rajiv Mishra, who is from Bihar and presently studies at Kyiv Medical University in Ukraine.
“On the other hand, we can complete our medical course for half the price in nations such as Ukraine, Russia, and Georgia, where tuition prices for a six-year MBBS study range from Rs 25-30 lakh,” added Rajiv.
Mehek Kumari, a student who had cleared her NEET UG in 2021 and was qualified to continue her study in India, instead decided to do so at Omsk State Medical University in Russia.
“Paying crores of rupees for a six-year course is not affordable for everyone and that is why I chose to come to Russia,” explained Mehek.
Mehek added that while the cost of living can add up to be quite expensive in foreign countries, it is still manageable for most.
“I had scored 359 marks in NEET, but needed almost Rs 70-90 lakh to get into a medical college whereas here in Russia they charge Rs 4 lakh per year adding up to around Rs 25 lakh for six years.”
High Quality Education
Students who are now enrolled in medical schools abroad have noted that these institutions provide excellent faculty who are well-known in their fields, and top-notch facilities that are frequently superior to those found in India.
“Infrastructure and other facilities provided by Chinese institutes are incomparable to those back in India," said Avroneel Biswas, an MBBS student from Nanjing Medical University in China. “With regard to hospital infrastructure, medical advancements, and technology advancements, China clearly places attention on the health sector.”
According to Avroneel, there is no language barrier amongst international students because all of the faculty members have great expertise and are fluent in English.
"The infrastructure is of a very high calibre in both Russia and Ukraine. Also, when you can obtain this for less than half the price, it makes a significant impact in a practical course like MBBS,” said Avroneel.
Difference from medical education in India
Students highlighted that it is impossible to compare curriculum and course structures outside of India because they may vary from country to country. However, obtaining a license to practice medicine in India might be challenging for these students due to differences in curriculum, students added.
Mehek added “The country also has supportive policies and a strong health care system, making it simpler to pursue a job here and possibly transition to other nations. While getting a licence to practice medicine in India can be difficult for foreign medical graduates, this experience can prepare us well too.”