Medical education regulator NMC unclear on Indian students with foreign degrees, giving agents a free run:

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Too many agents are making the most of the current scenario by spreading misleading information to attract students abroad

The struggle has just begun for over 9.93 lakh students who cleared the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) recently this year. First of all, the ongoing tussle over admission in the medical, dental, nursing and traditional medicine colleges of the country is going to be brutal. The opaque new regulation of the National Medical Commission (NMC), the apex regulatory body for medical professionals in India, with respect to foreign medical candidates won’t help either. The NMC’s silence in the face of scores of desperate medical students demanding clarity about their future has only made matters worse.

Of all the courses, Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) is the most sought-after undergraduate medical course, but it can absorb only 10 percent of the total NEET-qualified candidates. Those who fail to get admission either wait and re-exam next year to improve their score or look for alternatives abroad – the latter being the more popular option.

However, this option is becoming more complicated for them and for those currently studying abroad with the confusion of new rules of NMC-National Medical Commission (Foreign Medical Graduate Licensee) Regulations, 2021.

Against this background, many agents, in connivance with foreign universities, are making the most of the present scenario by spreading misleading information to attract students abroad, as they earn a huge commission on every admission, leaving the student vulnerable. go.

Why norms need clarification

Education counselors, a section of students and their parents say that there has been complete panic after the new rule came into force in November last year.

Every year, approximately 10,000 to 15,000 students go to countries such as China, Russia, Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Nepal and Bangladesh to study undergraduate medical courses, as fees are lower than private colleges in these countries. in India. Despite so many candidates being eligible for admission, the prohibitive cost and limited availability of seats compel them to venture abroad. NMC regulation has cast a shadow of doubt on the future of such students.

The new rule lists certain conditions that foreign graduates need to cover in order to appear in the National Exit Test (NEXT) – a test that will be made mandatory for medical students to obtain a practicing license in India. NMC has said that it will start its operation from 2023.According to one of the conditions, Regulation 4(b), in order to take the examination, those who have a degree from a foreign university “should be registered with the relevant professional regulatory body or otherwise, for grant of license to practice medicine”. Should be able toof the country in which the degree of medicine is awarded and is tantamount to a license to practice medicine granted to a citizen of that country.”
Legal and medical experts say the general interpretation of Regulation 4(b) is that a foreign medical graduate must be registered with the regulatory body of the country from which he/she graduates. In addition, the registration must be equivalent to a license to practice medicine in that country.
Viraj Kadam, an advocate dealing with matters related to medical education, says it is not clear what happens if a student with a medical degree from a country gets registered with the competent authority of that country but does not get it. right to practice there. “Can the candidates be eligible to appear in the Screening Test (NEXT) in India?” Step asks.

For example, countries like Bangladesh provide temporary registration to foreign students only to do internships and do not allow them to practice in the country. Malaysia and the Philippines do not allow foreign students to sit for examinations to obtain a license to practice there.

There is a similar confusion regarding the language of internship and instruction. As per the new rule, the minimum duration for MBBS studies is 54 months followed by one year internship in the same college.

“In order to align with the NMC norms, colleges in many countries have restructured their semesters. Those who were offering MBBS of six years are now calling it five years (degree) and one year internship. What would be the legality of such restructuring?” Questions to Anuj Goyal, an education counselor who runs Get My University.

deaf silence

Amidst all this, students complain that NMC does not answer their questions.

“We do not get a valid response on the call. When we go to the NMC office, the guards don’t allow us to enter, so we don’t know how to get the right information,” says Ankit Sharma, a student aspiring to study abroad.

Goyal says that when he approached the NMC seeking information under the RTI Act, he was disappointed as the answers were as vague as the rules.

“I asked the NMC to give me information about the countries that fulfill the 4(b) condition. To this end, the NMC in its reply has reproduced the same section of the regulation which does not serve any purpose,” he added.

Legal and medical experts are of the view that the NMC should put on its website the names of countries that meet all the criteria of its regulations so that students are not misled by agents.

Outlook DrAlso wrote an email to NMC President Suresh Chandra Sharma seeking information about countries that follow NMC rules but did not get any response.

There was no such confusion under the pre-NMC regulator Medical Council of India (MCI). Shikhar Ranjan, former legal head of the then MCI, says, “The earlier legal system required foreign medical graduates to complete their courses abroad and do internships in that country or India. After returning to India, they qualified for a screening test and were entitled to register to practice as doctors.”

systemic ambiguity

Indian embassies abroad, which are supposed to be the guardians of students studying abroad, also add to their woes with contradictory or ambiguous responses. Education advisors say that writing to Indian embassies or filing applications under the Right to Information (RTI) Act does not help them.

For example, to questions on Regulation 4(b) mentioned above, the Indian Embassy in Belarus provided two conflicting responses.

In a reply, quoting the Belarusian State Medical University, it said that no additional registration is required to practice medicine in Belarus and that “a graduate of the Belarusian State Medical University must have the right to practice medicine in India or other All necessary qualificationscountries.”However, in response to an application filed by another candidate seeking clarification for the same regulation, it quoted the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Belarus and stated that upon completion of graduation in Belarus, foreign students were given clinical trials for three out of three years. have to reside. five years.To be admitted to a clinical residency, they must apply to a medical university in Belarus and pass an interview to assess their Russian language proficiency. It also outlines how Indian students can gain the right to practice in Belarus, a process that includes entering a clinical residency, passing a qualifying internship exam to obtain an internship completion certificate, which allows them to practiceconfers rights.“It is quite interesting to note that the NMC maintains that medical education should be compulsorily in the English language. So as per the Indian Embassy response, how can an Indian student acquire proficiency in Russian language and qualify for clinical residency which is a mandatory requirement in Belarus?” Education consultant Srinivas Babu argues.

He mentioned that when one of his colleagues sought similar information from the Indian Embassy in Kyrgyzstan under the RTI Act, he said, “The applicant is advised to obtain relevant information only from the respective universities/colleges in Kyrgyzstan.”

A medical expert close to the government says such responses from embassies serve as agents for agents to mislead students as colleges never provide accurate information as it will hamper their business. “On the contrary, they have hired agents on huge commissions to attract students and enroll them there,” he says, requesting anonymity.

“I have received similar vague responses from embassies in other countries like Russia, Kazakhstan, Georgia, etc. Only the Indian embassy in China has uploaded FAQs on their website which clarify everything,” says Goyal.

He says he is preparing to file a PIL in the Delhi High Court to direct the NMC to provide a simple explanation of the various provisions of the rules.

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