Low fees, quality education draw Indian students to Ukraine

Published on Feb 28, 2022 11:39 PM IST

As per the Maharashtra government, 30 of the 218 evacuees that landed in Mumbai on Saturday evening were from Maharashtra

Most students end up shelling out anywhere between <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>4-6 lakh per annum for pursuing MBBS in government or civic-run medical institutes, which are preferred by top scorers year after year (Vijay Bate/HT Photo)
Most students end up shelling out anywhere between 4-6 lakh per annum for pursuing MBBS in government or civic-run medical institutes, which are preferred by top scorers year after year (Vijay Bate/HT Photo)

MUMBAI: For 20-year-old Nihal Pokle, the choice was between dropping his dream of becoming a doctor, or pursuing medicine in another country. With a score of 295 out of 720 in his National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET-UG), his only chance at bagging a seat in India would have been in a deemed medical institute, where the fees range from 18-24 lakh a year whereas in a state medical institute in another country, for example Ukraine, the entire six-year course costs 25-30 lakh. The choice was easy.

Speaking to HT on Monday from his home in Nashik, Pokle was among the first few evacuees onboard Air India flight 1944 that landed in Mumbai from Bucharest in Romania on Saturday evening.

“Medical colleges in Ukraine accept NEET scores for admissions, and at present, I pay around 3 lakh as tuition fees and another 2 lakh for hostel and accommodation for a year. This is cheap compared to Indian medical institutes,” said Pokle, a second-year undergraduate medical student at Bukovinian State Medical University in Chernivtsi, west Ukraine. With his NEET score, Pokle could not find a seat in government or private medical institute in the country and the fees in deemed institutes was beyond his reach financially.

“Some of my friends told me about medical institutes in Ukraine and that’s how I applied. The quality of education imparted in universities abroad too is at par with any other country,” said Pokle. He added that at present, most universities in war-torn Ukraine have decided to stop classes for a few days, following which classes will be conducted online for some time.

As per the Maharashtra government, 30 of the 218 evacuees that landed in Mumbai on Saturday evening were from Maharashtra. Another 30 students from the state landed in New Delhi on Sunday morning in another AI flight.

For years, the demand for undergraduate medical courses has risen and so have the fees of medical institutes in the country. Most students end up shelling out anywhere between 4-6 lakh per annum for pursuing MBBS in government or civic-run medical institutes, which are preferred by top scorers year after year. Fees in private and deemed-to-be medical colleges range anywhere between 25 lakh to nearly 1 crore for the 4.5 years (minus one year internship) MBBS course. This has pushed several aspirants to opt for colleges in countries including China, Russia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, where the entire course can cost you 20-25 lakh.

More often than not, students with low scores in the national entrance exam opt for admissions to medical courses abroad. Once they graduate, they either continue their education and working in Ukraine or return home to pursue higher education. Every year, nearly 30,000 students who completed their MBBS degree from universities abroad appear for the National Medial Commission (NMC) approved exam in order for their degree to be accepted in Indian universities for higher studies or to find work in the country.

Nineteen-year-old Rutuja Kamble was one of the evacuees in the first AI flight that flew from Bucharest and landed in Mumbai on Saturday. Since her arrival, she’s been in constant touch with her friends still stuck in Ukraine. “First few evacuation buses were mainly carrying female students, so the ones that are still stuck in our university are mainly boys. I’ve also heard very scary stories of how some of our batchmates are stuck at the Romanian border as the authorities there cannot handle the high number of people wanting to cross over,” said Kamble, a first-year MBBS student and resident of Kolhapur.

Kamble had scored 300 out of 720 in her NEET and found it difficult to get admission in private medical colleges in Maharashtra. “Medical colleges in Russia and China are also very good, but they opt for dual-language programme, which is not accepted by the National Medical Commission (NMC). Therefore, I opted for Ukraine where the full course is in English,” she added.

Twenty-one-year-old Avishkar Mulay has spent the last two days making up for lost sleep. Back home in Pune now, Mulay is resting in the comfort of his home, far from Ukraine where has been pursuing his MBBS degree for the past three years. While he was one of the lucky few hundreds of students evacuated from Ukraine after they made their way to the Romanian border, Mulay still feels scared for his friends still waiting to be evacuated.

“The only solace is knowing that where my friends are (at the university), no attack has taken place. But there’s no guarantee something won’t happen either. Many of my batchmates are sending pictures of themselves from the hostel while some are on their way to Romanian border and I’m praying for everyone’s safety,” said Mulay, a third-year MBBS student of Bukovinian State Medical University, the same as Pokle.

Several students are still on their way to the various borders in order to cross over and find their way back home.

Lack of proper mobile network, especially close to the borders is adding to the anxiety for family and friends of students still stuck in Ukraine. “Nearly 40% of the students in my college are Indians, so we are a small community there and are very close knit. I’m constantly praying for all my friends, even from other countries, in every part of Ukraine,” added Kamble.

On Monday, another bus carried MBBS students of Bukovinian State Medical University to the Romanian border with the help of local police. “There is lots of traffic closer to the border, but the local police are helpful. We will hopefully cross the border soon and reach our respective hometowns. The constant fear of attack has kept many of us awake through the night for several days,” Kamlesh Kale, a third-year MBBS student and resident of Ahmednagar district, told HT in a text message sent from the Romanian border.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Shreya Bhandary is a Special Correspondent covering higher education for Hindustan Times, Mumbai. Her work revolves around finding loopholes in the current education system and highlighting the good and the bad in higher education institutes in and around Mumbai.

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