Two Indian students have died in Ukraine in the last few days. The crisis raises the question, why are Indian students forced to study in eastern-European countries like Ukraine for medicine? The biggest reason is low fees and low competition. Not only Ukraine, China, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Kyrgyzstan are also choices for Indian students wanting to study medicine.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emphasised on promoting ‘Make in India’ in medical education. He said that the students of the country are moving to smaller countries for medical studies, can’t the private sector get into it in a big way? He said, “Can’t our state governments make good policies for land allotment in this regard?” This shows that due to the insufficient availability of government colleges and affordable private colleges, children prefer to go to countries like Ukraine instead of studying in private colleges of the country, which are unaffordable for a large section of the population.
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Why Indian students study medicine abroad
The difference between medical fees in Ukraine and India is more than double. The cost of private medical education in India ranges from Rs 80 lakh to Rs 1 crore, while in countries like China and the Philippines, it costs Rs 25 lakh. In Belarus, it costs 30 lakh, and in Russia, it costs around Rs 40-45 lakh. In Ukraine, it costs Rs 15 to 22 lakh for a six-year course.
The NEET exam is the criteria for government and private colleges in India for those who want to study MBBS, dentistry, and AYUSH. Like other competitive examinations in India, the cut-off for NEET rises dramatically every year. In addition, medical colleges in India have fewer seats and more applicants.
According to the Ministry of Health, as of December 2021, India’s medical institutions have 88,120 undergraduate seats. In 2021, however, over 16 lakh applicants applied for NEET-UG. About 8.70 lakh students passed the exam. As a result, the 88,120 undergraduate medical seats offered can only accommodate around 10 per cent of the total qualified applicants. This clearly demonstrates how India still needs to spend on education and build new educational institutions.
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India’s ‘quality’ education crisis
According to statistics provided by India Today’s Data Intelligence Unit from the Ministry of External Affairs (DIU), the United Arab Emirates has over 219,000 Indian students, making it the most populous country in terms of student mobility. Around 8 lakh students travel abroad for higher education each year, spending $28 billion or 1 per cent of our GDP. Fees to overseas universities account for around $6 billion of this total.
This equates to around Rs 45,000 crore, which is sufficient funding to establish and operate ten new IITs, IISERs, JNUs, or other premier institutions per year. Despite this, according to a recent CAG study, the eight new IITs established between 2008 and 2009 are doing poorly. The influx of new private institutions has failed to stem the above-mentioned student and wealth migration. Thus, even after 74 years of independence and eight years of aggressive policy attempts, higher education still lacks ‘atmanirbharta‘ and a value proposition.
In the World QS university ranking of 2022, only three universities from India managed to secure positions in the top 200. However, if we look at Asian countries like China, Hong Kong and Singapore, universities there have secured the top positions and attracted foreign students to their countries. India is not only lacking in the quality of universities but also in the quantity. Due to the lack of political will of the government, Indian students are suffering a lot. It is high time for the Indian government to increase the budget of the education sector. With private partnerships, it can frame policies and attract investment to make India a hub of the education sector not only in Asia but also in the world. India needs more than what the Modi government is doing for the job sector and education.
The author is a student at Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar. Views are personal