Medicine courses are among the most difficult to be accepted to, be it in India or several other countries. The sheer number of applicants often makes it a challenge for many candidates to clear medical school tests. Every year, thousands of students compete for places on undergraduate – as well as postgraduate – courses in medicine.
Such is the charm of the healthcare profession that some of those who do not secure a place in a medical school in India due to extreme competition, look to pursue their degrees abroad. In the case of the US, potential deterrents to the first degree in medicine are: the admission requirements, the cost ($57,819 on average, as per an Association of American Medical Colleges survey) and the amount of time it takes because, unlike India, schools don’t offer MBBS degrees at the post-secondary level. Instead, students in the US first need to complete a four-year undergraduate degree before moving on to a four-year MD (the basic qualification required to become a doctor), which means a total of eight years before you can add ‘Dr.’ to your name. Also, generally, international students are not offered financial assistance. So, the other option to explore, if you are prepared to be a physician-scientist, is the MD/PhD route.
When it comes to the UK, Canada and Australia there are similar concerns of entry requirements and costs (tuition fees are around US$ 30000-40,000 per year and vary from institute to institute). So, some students prefer to study for an MBBS qualification in India and go to the UK, Canada or Australia for a postgraduate qualification.
Hence, each year, some students are looking beyond such countries because of the highly competitive admission process and prohibitive costs. Some of the adventurous ones among them are open to pursuing medical degrees from institutes in Asia and Eastern Europe, as admission to these institutes is easy and straightforward and the tuition fee is competitive, if not cheaper than Indian medical institutes.
A look at the number of students who have taken the Foreign Medical Graduates Examination (FMGE) over the past four years reveals that 11,825 students had medical degrees from China, 5,950 from Russia, 3,250 from Ukraine and 3,163 from Nepal. Let’s look at what these options entail.
Institutes in Ukraine offer one of the least expensive medical degrees. The length of the MBBS programme is generally six years. The tuition fees are around US$4,000 and living expenses around $1,000 per year.
Each year, the Chinese government publishes a list of medical schools permitted to accept international students. Before choosing a medical school in China, an applicant needs to make sure it is on the list. The MBBS programme usually spans over six years, including a one-year internship. Some of the institutes use Indian textbooks and have Indian professors teaching students since classes for domestic and international students are usually separate. The tuition fees are around US$5,000 per year and living expenses of around US$1,000 per year.
Russia has several medical schools. Indian students choose Russian medical schools mainly because of the low cost. The tuition fees are around US$4,000-11,000 per year and living expenses of around US$4,000 per year. The duration of the MBBS programme is usually the same as that in China, i.e. six years including a year-long internship.
With no visa requirements and its proximity to India, Nepal receives some students wanting to pursue medical degrees. The duration of the MBBS programme is around five-and-a-half to six years and the fees are around US$7,000. Living costs amount to around US$3500 per year.
In the four countries listed here, general admission requirements of almost all medical schools include 10+2 with physics, chemistry and biology and at least 50% marks. Some institutes may have additional requirements including an admission test and/or interview. You need to submit an eligibility certificate from the Medical Council of India (MCI) to study for MBBS degree in any foreign university. The medical school must be listed in the World Health Organization’s Directory of Medical Schools. Otherwise, its degree will not be recognized (in India).
WORD OF CAUTION
Students who have studied medicine in any country, except the US, the UK, Canada, Australia or New Zealand and who wish to practise as recognised doctors in India need to take the FMGE, which is held twice a year. Data provided by the National Board of Examination (NBE), which conducts the test, shows that only 19% of students have cleared the exam over the past few years. In addition to clearing this test, candidates also need to undertake a one-year internship as directed by the MCI (in some cases, if they have completed a foreign internship, this requirement can be waived).