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Indian Med Students Uncertain About the Way Forward After Return From Ukraine

With the conflict in Ukraine still blazing, there’s uncertainty around when students will be able to resume classes.

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"I feel that the best thing for us would be to be able to continue with our education in Ukraine because it's not going to be easy to settle into any other university," said Mohd Adnan Azhar, a fourth-year student of Odessa National Medical University, who was one among the thousands of students forced to return to India amid the Ukraine-Russia war.

"There are different systems in place in different countries," he adds.

While it was a question of mere survival for Indian students stranded in Ukraine until a few days back, as they made safe passage back to India, now the worry is about the future of their education.

At least 18,000 students have been enrolled in various Ukrainian medical institutions, according to government figures.

But with the ongoing conflict in Ukraine still blazing, there’s a lot of uncertainty around when these medical students will be able to return to their classes. And, if they are unable to do so in the near future, what is the way forward?

“Our biggest concern now is that we hope that we don’t lose out on a year of education because of the war,“ the fourth-year student said, expressing worry.

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Students Unsure About What Next

Certain institutions Ukrainian universities have assured students that their transcripts will be provided to them should they want to migrate to universities in other countries.

Firoz Ahmed Khan, another fourth-year medical student of Odessa Medical University, said that they've have been advised to finish their second semester before opting to migrate to another university or country.

"A week after the war began, the university administration had said that classes will be resumed in some time. They also assured us that our paperwork and documents have been hidden safely in bunkers. They said we could get our transcripts if we want to switch institutions but we've been advised to finish the second semester before taking such steps. Else we might lose out on a whole year."
Firoz Ahmed Khan, Fourth Year Medical Student, Odessa National Medical University, Ukraine

Amid such uncertainties, while some want to wait and see before making any decision, some others are also mulling over whether to migrate to other universities or not.

Neha Bhati, a medical student studying at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, said, "Our university authorities said that they said they can hand over the transcripts to those who want to migrate to other institutions but I think I will wait. It will take some time for the situation to improve but I don’t want to take a hasty decision."

However, she told The Quint that students' WhatsApp groups are buzzing with photos of spurious cuttings and notices purportedly from certain universities of Poland and Hungary with migration offers for students from Ukrainian universities at no added costs.

With the conflict in Ukraine still blazing, there’s uncertainty around when students will be able to resume classes.
With the conflict in Ukraine still blazing, there’s uncertainty around when students will be able to resume classes.
"We have received some forms from some Poland universities in WhatsApp groups, but education councillors have warned us to not fill up such forms, since there's no confirmation on their authenticity."
Neha Bhati, Medical Student, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv

"In any case, a lot of students have managed to fund their education in Ukraine with loans, but may not be able to bear the higher expense of education in Poland, Hungary, or Romania if they must resort to transferring to universities in these countries," she added.

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What Indian Authorities Have Done So Far

But there's also the question of what the National Medical Commission (NMC) guidelines say regarding switching universities.

"Some students I know have sent in their details to universities in other countries already, such as their names and courses, but I'm afraid that if we opt for a migration, then we might not be eligible for the Foreign Medical Graduates Examination (FMGE) exams, since the NMC regulations don't allow a transfer in the middle of a medical course," Adnan pointed out.

The FGME is a mandatory licentiate test conducted by the National Board of Examinations (NBE) in India for all Indian students who have obtained a medical degree abroad to be able to practice in India or apply for higher medical degrees in Indian medical institutions.

One of the FMGE regulations specified in the 2021 NMC notification reads that students would have to pursue "the entire course, training and internship or clerkship" outside India "in the same foreign medical institution throughout the course of study and no part of medical training and internship shall be done in India or in any country other than country from where the primary medical qualification is obtained."

However, students are also hopeful that given the compelling situation they are in, authorities might tweak guidelines to accommodate them.

For now, an NMC circular dated 4 March 2022 has allowed students with incomplete internships owing to situations beyond their control such as "the pandemic and war" to finish their remaining internships in India.

With the conflict in Ukraine still blazing, there’s uncertainty around when students will be able to resume classes.
With the conflict in Ukraine still blazing, there’s uncertainty around when students will be able to resume classes.

The new circular on “Guidelines for registration of Foreign Medical Graduates” reads, "State Medical Councils should obtain an undertaking from the medical college that no amount/fee is charged by the medical college from the FMGs (Foreign Medical Graduates) for permitting them to do their internship. The stipend and other facilities to FMGs should be extended equivalent to Indian Medical Graduates being trained at Government Medical Colleges as fixed by the appropriate authority applicable to the institution/university."

Yet, this doesn't offer a solution to those students who are in the middle of their courses.

The Indian Medical Association has also written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging for Indian students studying in Ukrainian universities to be adjusted into existing medical colleges as a "one-time measure".

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