medical students
Indian medical students in Ukraine are in a dilemma: stay with the same uni or transfer to another medical programme abroad. Source: Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP

The Russia-Ukraine war has pulled the rug from under the feet of thousands of international students in Ukraine, including Indian medical students who have had their studies disrupted as they rush to flee the country.

A primary concern for many is getting out of the country safely, but if the situation in Ukraine prolongs, students will need to consider alternative plans to continue their studies.

Study abroad consultant Ravi Kumar Koul told the that students would not lose academic years because the National Medical Commission will allow them to be transferred to other universities.

“The primary concern is getting the students back safely as the situation is grim in the eastern part of Ukraine. If these students can travel back soon, they can look for transfers to universities in the western region of the country,” said Koul, who manages the Ghaziabad-based Admission Advisor consultancy.

He has helped many Indian students get admitted to MBBS courses in Ukraine. Koul added: “If the situation gets better in the next couple of months as well, they can safely return to their universities.”

medical students

Indian students in Ukraine can now choose to transfer to other institutions. Source: Narinder Nanu/AFP

Medical students: Transferring universities an option

Koul said the Indian government last week collected data of all Indian students enrolled in Ukraine via Google forms. “If the situation gets better in the next couple of months, they can safely return to their universities. Otherwise other options will have to be explored,” said Koul.

Koul said that students could transfer to other universities in the country or to universities in another country, but advised students to make decisions carefully.

“Any government university would be willing to absorb these students, but they have to be careful because private universities would want to get them. The quality of education in private or semi-government universities is questionable as well as expensive,” Koul was quoted saying.

Another study-abroad consultant, Akshay Chaturvedi – founder of Leverage Edu — said students could either be admitted to a different Ukrainian university or choose to transfer to a medical school in a foreign country.

Medical schools in the West Indies, the UK, Canada and Australia could be viable transfer choices since their healthcare and education infrastructure have improved over the past five years.

“While these options may be marginally more expensive than studying in Ukraine, they will yield a great return on investment in terms of post-study opportunities,” advised Chaturvedi.

A 25-year-old student from Chandigarh who had returned to VN Karazin Kharkiv National Medical University in August 2021 to complete her MBBS degree told the “The universities have assured me that online classes will continue. The KROK 2 examination, which is a licensing examination and an obligatory part of state certification to be a doctor or a pharmacist, is supposed to be held on May 24, but it seems very unlikely. We don’t know what will happen.”

What next for medical students in Ukraine?

This is not the first time Indian medical students abroad have experienced a similar situation. In 2004, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, and the 600 MBBS students in Crimean universities either stayed back or chose to transfer elsewhere with the Indian embassy’s help.

However, the current Ukraine crisis can be complicated for Indian students, particularly for fifth or final year MBBS students who have to undertake compulsory clinical training, and may not be inducted into Indian medical schools due to limited infrastructure.

“The Foreign Medical Graduates Examination (FMGE) can be advanced, and final-year students can be appointed on duty, but junior students will have to join other universities,” said Chaturvedi.

Among the 33 medical colleges in Ukraine, some 28 are recognised in the WHO directory of medical schools. In recent years, Ukraine has become a favoured choice for Indian students wanting to do MBBS studies, thanks to strong market penetration through university recruitment agents acting as their representatives in India.