All of us are aware of the National Medical Commission (NMC) replacing the erstwhile MCI (Medical Council of India) in September 2020. The NMC was established by an Act of Parliament known as the National Medical Commission Act, 2019, which came into force in September 2020 with the objective of improving access to quality and affordable medical education, ensuring adequate and high-quality medical professionals in all parts of India, and to provide equitable and universal health care.
With this new change in administration, there were a lot of changes that were brought in the medical world and which have a direct impact on Indian medical students who are studying and are planning to study abroad. In this article, I am focusing on the some of the significant changes that have recently introduced by the NMC that would, probably, directly affect Indian medical students who plan to return to practise in India having completed their MBBS study abroad.
There are about 5 main points that a student needs to know before seeking admission abroad. The rest of the other points given in the guideline are manageable and are followed by most of the universities in the countries of choice of Indian students, either it be Nepal, Bangladesh, Egypt, Russia, Kazakhstan or any other.
Among the main points, the NMC has introduced Mandatory Double Internships for MBBS students abroad. As per the guidelines established by the NMC, students who are going abroad to pursue medical studies must enroll in a course that spans a minimum of 54 months and medium of instruction is English. The new regulations brought in by NMC require all candidates who wish to pursue foreign medical degrees abroad to study a course of theory, practical and clinical training equivalent to Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) of India; and should have completed an internship of twelve months in addition to such a course in the same foreign institution where the primary medical qualification has been obtained. Medical students are also required to have hands-on training in clinical subjects.
Furthermore, Foreign Medicine Graduates can only come back to their country to practise after having completed their course, an internship of 12 months and having passed the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination (FMGE) to work in India on provisional registration with State Medical Councils. They need to intern for another 12 months of ‘supervised internship’ in India before they can get their permanent registration. This is in addition to the 12-month internship that they are required to pursue as part of their studies in a foreign country.
It is obvious that every medical aspirant in India wants to get admission to India, but the seats are limited. Only 84,000 MBBS seats are available in medical colleges in India and 16 lakh students appear in the NEET exam every year. It makes it harder for medical students to get admission and in that case, they choose to study MBBS abroad. They must know the facts and the figures of the NMC Gazette posted on 18 Nov, 2021, some of the points of which are elaborated above but one point which is most confusing says that the license to practise should be given by the same country from where the candidate has completed his/her MBBS degree. It might be impossible that the country may not issue the license to foreign students for more than 1 year and this license is named as provisional/ temporary license.
After a student completes MBBS course from any foreign medical college/ university, he or she has to appear for NEXT Exam in India, which gives assurance to a candidate that his/her degree completed from any college/ university abroad is acceptable. The Medical Council of India’s (MCI) Foreign Medical Graduate Examination, commonly referred to as MCI FMGE, is a medical licensing examination. Conducted by the National Board of Examination (NBE), FMGE is a mandatory examination required to be undertaken by all Indian citizens or Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders who have pursued their medical education abroad and plan to practise in India. Candidates who successfully qualify the MCI FMGE would be permitted to register themselves with the MCI/ State Medical Council (SMC) and practise in India. However, as per the latest update from NMC, the National Exit Test (NEXT) is to replace FMGE starting 2023 and there will be mock exams held in 2022.
As appraised by officials of NMC, efforts are underway to ensure that the National Exit Test (NEXT) be conducted in the first half of 2023 as per the roadmap. To test the procedure and remove anxiety among medical students, a Mock Run is also being planned and will be conducted in 2022.
The importance of the NEXT Exam lies in the fact that it will be the same for everyone whether trained in India or any part of the world and hence it will solve the problem of foreign medical graduates (FMGs)/ mutual recognition. With the introduction of NEXT, the Government of India is committed to creating quality medical education and transparent examination infrastructure and health services and is relentlessly working with all stakeholders to achieve this objective.
The medical profession has become much in demand during the Covid pandemic. Many students cannot afford medical courses due to the expensive tuition fees of private medical colleges in India. On the other hand, students can complete MBBS abroad for between Rs 16 lakh – 25 lakh, including or excluding hostel and mess fees. There are many countries in the world that are considered to be ideal for Indian students to study MBBS. Many of them have invested a lot in the education system for R&D. Due to this, medical education is pretty affordable among all these countries. Bangladesh is leading as it is nearer to India, climatic conditions are favourable, fee is affordable, curriculum is somewhat same as in India, medium of instruction is English, mostly the colleges are affiliated with Dhaka and are located in Dhaka city. With all these features Bangladesh has become a paradise for MBBS aspirants but there is one disadvantage: that Bangladesh is not accepting students who have a gap in study from Class 12th passing year to admission year of more than one year. This makes such students not eligible for admission and hence they have to think of a second option. As per my experience, the second option was earlier Ukraine but due to the war now that has changed.
Duration of MBBS in India vs abroad: The duration of MBBS studies varies between countries. Students can complete their MBBS studies in just 5.5 years in India. That includes training or internship duration (12 months). On the other hand, countries like Russia, China, or Ukraine offer 6 years (approximately) including internships under experienced professionals.
Major benefits of studying MBBS abroad vs India:
1. Affordable fees: MBBS fees in India start from Rs 40 to Rs 50 lakh (private medical colleges). In comparison, the MBBS fees in countries like Ukraine is between Rs 14 lakh and Rs 25 lakh.
2. Top ranking medical colleges: Most of the colleges in India have a low ranking in the international ranking list. On the other hand, 30 Russian medical universities are listed in the top 100 medical universities in the world.
When it comes to getting admission to a medical college, it all depends on qualifying for the NEET exams. After that, the next step is how good a rank you hold in the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test. Finally, counselling and then the rest of the admission process. Colleges set their cut-off list and select only those students who fit in their criteria.
Future after MBBS abroad?
Most of the popular universities are approved by the National Medical Commission and the local government of that country. The medical degree is valid in India and other countries as well. To practise in India, students have to pass the NEXT exam after MBBS abroad.
On the other hand, NEET rank does not play a vital role in MBBS admission at MCI/ NMC approved medical universities abroad. There will be no predefined cut-off for admission to medical colleges outside India. Aspirants just need to prove their eligibility and that’s it.
There is a myth that every student must have heard that only those students apply for MBBS abroad who are weak in studies. This is completely baseless. Students who scored 550+ are applying for admission to top medical colleges abroad. The reason behind that is that the competition in India is too high.
For seeking admission to colleges of countries like Nepal, Ukraine, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, and Georgia and other countries, there is no entrance exam conducted. The only condition is that you complete the eligibility and just pass the NEET exam.
The writer is MD, Solutions Career Consultancy, Karanagar Srinagar.