It is estimated that around 20,000-25,000 students go abroad every year to study medicine. But what are the preferred study destinations abroad for these students?
China, Russia, Ukraine, Philippines, Poland, and Kyrgyzstan are some of the top countries that come up in online searches for cheap medical education abroad.
According to data released by the Indian Embassy in China, more than 23,000 Indian students were enrolled in Chinese universities before the COVID-19 outbreak. Of these, more than 18,000 were pursuing medical degrees.
The Medical Council of India had approved and recognised 45 Chinese universities in 2019 for Indian students to enroll in.
Some of the top institutions that feature in the list are Jilin University, Xinjiang Medical University, and Sichuan University. The enrolment plan for foreign students in these institutes also include classes in English medium.
According to Omkar Medicom, a consultancy for Indian students who want to pursue MBBS abroad, the average cost of medical education in China is between Rs 14 lakh and Rs 24 lakh for the entire duration of the course.
Over 16,000 Indian students are currently enrolled in various medical institutions in the Russian Federation, according to the website of the Indian Embassy in Russia.
The MBBS students from Russia are required to register with a State Medical Council (SMC) in order to practice in India after completion of their medical education.
Some of the Russian medical colleges are also approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) that makes these degrees valid in both India and global bodies like the European Council of Medicine.
The fees range between between US$4,000 and US$6,000 per year.
Ukraine, where over 600 students are currently stranded with low supplies of food and water due to the ongoing crisis with Russia, has been a popular destination for Indians to study medicine for years, owing to affordable and decent education.
According to the Ukraine Ministry of Education and Science, there were around 18,000 Indian students studying in the country. As per reports, in the year 2020, 24 percent of Ukraine's overseas students were from India.
The average MBBS fees in the country is between Rs 15 lakh and Rs 17 lakh.
Skewed Demand-Supply Ratio for Medical Seats
But what does all this say about the lack of opportunities back at home?
For starters, while the number of Indian medical studies aspirants is on the rise in India, the seat availability in the country is still marginal in comparison to the demands.
According to data presented by the Health Ministry in the Lok Sabha earlier in 2021, there are a total number of 88,120 Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) seats available in 542 medical colleges in the country, including 278 government and 263 private institutes.
For Bachelor of Dentist Surgery (BDS) students, there are 26,949 seats in the country.
While this might seem like a fairly large number of medical seats, it pales in comparison to the number candidates who had registered for NEET exams in the previous years.
NEET is a compulsory exam for those who wish to study medicine in the country. In 2021, 16.14 lakh students had applied for NEET-UG exams, which means there are at least 18 applicants competing for every MBBS seat in the country.
Preferred Countries for Medical Education
Adding to the scarcity of seats are exorbitant fees especially at private medical colleges. The average MBBS fees in private institutes can range between Rs 60-70 lakh for the four-and-a-half-year course.
These two factors are understood to be the primary reasons for more and more students taking the foreign route to obtain a medical degree.
Upon their return to India, students who have earned a medical degree abroad have to appear for the Foreign Medical Graduates Examination (FMGE) test.
According to a government release, the number of students appearing for FMGE in 2009 was 6,170, which has increased to 21,351 in 2018. However, the pass percentage of students appearing for the FMGE has been very low, and continues to be below 20 percent.