The exodus of Indian students fleeing war in Ukraine has exposed long-standing problems plaguing India’s medical education system.
In recent weeks, thousands of Indian medical students have returned home. Although they managed to get to safety, many may soon find their lives at a standstill, unable to transfer their credits and resume their studies.
“The main concern of every student is what will happen next,” said Saransh, a medical student at Sumy State University in Ukraine, who preferred to use only his first name. Times Higher Education. He only had three months left to complete his studies before the start of the war.
Yet India’s problem with medical education long predates the conflict that forced students to flee Ukraine, said Yatharth Gulati, co-founder of consultancy group Rostrum Education.
For years, fierce competition in public universities has driven many Indian medical students abroad, often to Eastern Europe, where entry barriers are lower and courses cheaper. But when they return, about half of these students do not pass the Indian certification process to work as doctors, Gulati estimated.
Despite these poor results, agencies paid to recruit students from universities in countries such as Ukraine, Russia and China have multiplied in recent years.
“Many agencies representing these universities are recruiting students en masse and not telling students what the long-term effect will be,” Gulati said, which often means these students are “spoiling” their prospects.
Unlike Indian students who head to the United States or Britain to pursue medical studies, who tend to come from wealthy backgrounds, those who leave for countries like Ukraine, Russia or China have often more modest means.
This was the case of a student who spoke with Times Higher Education. The student, whose family took out loans to finance his education, is among thousands of people who have waited more than two years for China to reopen its borders so they can complete their medical studies.
Because those stuck in this situation tend to be the children of working-class parents, they “don’t have a lot of voice when it comes to making it an issue,” Gulati said.
Many of these students could not afford to start their studies again, even if they wanted to. Places in Indian public universities are coveted and competition is tough, and the alternative – private universities – vary in quality and charge high tuition fees.
Even for those who complete their studies, work in India is not guaranteed. But now, with the issue pushed into the public sphere, there is perhaps greater hope that policymakers will pay attention.
In a recent speech, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledged the need for more national medical education, suggesting that private institutions could increase their admission.
“Our children today go to small countries to study, especially in medical education,” he said. “Can’t our private sector enter massively into this field? Can’t our state governments develop good land allocation policies on this? »
Private institutions are often expensive and their quality can be hit or miss, while building public universities from scratch takes time, said Gulati, who argued that the Indian government should create more places in schools of public medicine.
“Otherwise, they will never be able to meet the demand. This is something they have to do, otherwise this phenomenon will continue, if not in Ukraine, at least in Russia or Georgia or wherever,” he said.
Still, Gulati said, some students and their families will have to face the harsh reality that not everyone is cut out to be a doctor.
“Indian parents have this mindset: ‘Either become a doctor or do nothing,'” he said. “But not everyone can become a doctor.”