Record numbers of Indian students are heading abroad to study medicine
Why are so many Indian students leaving India to study medicine? Source: Shutterstock

There are a number of reasons why students from India are looking to study medicine abroad, and it’s not because the quality of education in the country has declined.

In fact, India has some of the best institutes and teachers in the world, and is well on its way to becoming a major economic power. However, it was recently reported by The Hindustan Times that “the number of students applying for admission to medical courses abroad is high, and rising steeply”.

Since January 2014, a mandate has demanded that students who wish to study medicine abroad must obtain an eligibility certificate.

It was found that the Medical Council of India (MCI) has issued 3,386 more eligibility certificates to foreign medical aspirants in 2018 than in 2017, a rise of about 24 percent.

The strong competition in government medical colleges, as well as the rising costs of private medical colleges, are some of the factors pushing students to travel abroad for their studies.

Dr Jayashree Mehta, former President of the Medical Council of India, said, ““One set of students applying abroad are those aiming for top colleges in countries like the UK, but a chunk of aspirants are those who could not manage a seat in a government medical college. Private medical colleges are sometimes so expensive that students prefer to study in China, Russia and more recently in countries like Nepal and Bangladesh.”

She pointed out that there is a growing need for more affordable medical colleges in the country so “students from all sections of society can study medicine”.


More Indian medical students are studying abroad. Source: Shutterstock

However, these students usually wish to return to their home country once they’re done, as many tend to choose overseas institutions that are recognised in India, helping them clear the eligibility test and allowing them to start practising medicine without issues when they return.

Dr KK Agarwal, President of Heart Care Foundation of India and former President of the Indian Medical Association, said, “A lot of the colleges that students opt for in Asia have ties with Indian institutions. Hence, these places also prepare the students for the eligibility test back home.”

Studying abroad is also a way for those who can’t get into government medical colleges to save money.

It was reported last year that the average fees for an MBBS course at a private university in India is RM64 lakh ($90,048), compared to the fixed cost of RM4 lakh ($5629) offered at government colleges.

Dr Abdul Mateen, who studied medicine in the Philippines in 2011, said it was just a cheaper option than a private medical school in India. “Also, the spectrum of disease there, unlike in Russia, is very similar to the spectrum of disease in India,” he said.

The rise of the number of neighbouring countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh is also an attractive factor to students.

Dr Agarwal said, “With the kind of technology and connectivity we have now, there’s little difference between moving cities within India and moving to a neighbouring country like Bangladesh to study. Moreover, there are employment opportunities in these countries too.”

India students medicine

Indian students are choosing medical colleges in neighbouring countries such as Southern Medical College in Bangladesh. Source: MBBS from Bangladesh

The growing number of IB schools in the country is also a cause of students from these schools to head abroad.

Kimberly Wright Dixit, President of study-abroad consultancy Red Pen, said, “To be eligible to study medicine in India, a student needs to have a combination of physics, chemistry and biology. IB students cannot take more than two science subjects, except with special permission.”

To obtain this special permission, students must go through a tedious process of applying to the Board saying they’d like to study an extra science subject, or pursue a non-regular diploma, in order to qualify for India’s medical entrance exam.

“For many students, this is a daunting, time-consuming and uncertain prospect; it’s easier to just apply abroad,” Dixit said.

Raashi Shah, a Class 12 student at the Dhirubhai Ambani International School in Mumbai, only applied to medical colleges in the UK for this reason. “The special permission from the Board can take a lot of time. Then you have to study an extra subject, and you may end up not qualifying anyway, because you didn’t score well enough,” she said.

These are the main reasons causing Indian students to seek education abroad, reflecting a need for more affordable private colleges in the country.

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