Affordability makes Ukraine top choice for medical students

Updated on Feb 28, 2022 05:43 AM IST

According to data from the central government, over 18,095 students from India are studying in Ukraine, of whom 90% are medical students.

Indian nationals board a special Air India flight, evacuating Indians from war-torn Ukraine, in Bucharest on Sunday. (PTI)
Indian nationals board a special Air India flight, evacuating Indians from war-torn Ukraine, in Bucharest on Sunday. (PTI)
By, New Delhi

As he landed in Jaipur on Thursday morning, 24-year-old Mohit Awana breathed a sigh of relief. A medical student at VN Karazin Kharkiv National University in Ukraine, Awana had received news of bombings in Kharkiv and escaped by a matter of days.

According to data from the central government, over 18,095 students from India are studying in Ukraine, of whom 90% are medical students.

Experts in the field  explained that each year, hundreds of students choose medicine courses in countries such as Ukraine, China, Philippines and Russia as the universities there provide cheaper alternatives to medical colleges in India. Getting admissions into these colleges is also a lot easier as there is less competition. In India, at least a million aspirants compete for about 100,000 undergraduate medical seats each year, government data suggested.

To study medicine in a government college in India, the average fee for a government college is 2 lakh but not everyone manages to get admission. Private colleges, meanwhile, charge  between 10-15 lakh per annum, which means for a four-and-a-half year course, the family of the student has to spend at least 50 lakh towards fees.

In private medical colleges in Ukraine, the average annual fees comes to around 3-5 lakh, which is considerably lower than the Indian colleges.

A medical degree from Ukraine is also recognised world-over, including in India. Students just have to clear the Foreign Medical Graduates Examination (FMGE), which makes them eligible to practice in India. An estimated 2,000-3,000 students go abroad to study medicine each year, according to government data, with about 10,000 sitting for the foreign medical graduate exam for a licence to practise in India. However, pass percentage in FMGE is quite low; on average, between 10-20% of foreign-trained doctors pass the test.

The Indian medical regulator recognises degrees only from five countries — US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, and doctors having graduated from the rest of the countries need to take the screening test.

A few years ago, the Board of governors regulating medical education in India considered a programme to upgrade the skills of doctors who graduate from foreign medical colleges to help them get the training needed to practice medicine in India, and crack the necessary exams. The programme, however, did not take off. “The government focus over the past few years has been to increase the number of MBBS seats in India, so that students do not have to go to Ukraine and other countries to pursue medical education. There is no point in studying a medical course that doesn’t train you adequately to practice, especially within your own country. Here, you are dealing with human lives, so one has got to be well-trained,” said Dr KK Talwar, former chair, board of governors that was running Medical Council of India.

Former Union health secretary K Sujatha Rao said the government should try and bring down the cost of study.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Soumya Pillai covers environment and traffic in Delhi. A journalist for three years, she has grown up in and with Delhi, which is often reflected in the stories she does about life in the city. She also enjoys writing on social innovations.

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