Amid the Russia-Ukraine war, the government of India, carrying the legacy of former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, has launched a ‘multi-pronged’ ‘Operation Ganga’ to evacuate our citizens stranded in Ukraine. The neighbouring countries of Romania, Hungary, Poland, Slovak Republic are being used to fly the citizens back to the country. The mission attempts to bring back 15,000 Indians, of which the majority are medical students.
The videos of desperate medical students pleading to return to the motherland had quickly gone viral on the realms of social media. However, questions are also being asked, why is there such a huge number of medical students in the former USSR colony? Here, we try to figure out the reason why students of India pack their bags and ship themselves thousands of miles away to the cold country of Ukraine to pursue their medical dreams.
It is imperative that we give you the number of actual students in Ukraine and not a ballpark figure. According to the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, there are almost 18,095 Indian students in the country, and in 2020, they made up almost 24 per cent of the overseas quota of the students.
Such large numbers are propelled by the belief that Ukraine’s state-run universities are providing high-quality education, and Indian parents choose to send their children to these institutions rather than paying a high cost for a lesser-known private medical college in India.
Not enough seats in India
Then comes the competition and perils of reservation that force Indians to venture overseas. According to the National Medical Council (NMC), there are a total of 554 medical colleges offering a total of 83,075 MBBS seats offered through NEET.
Why are so many Indian students studying in Ukrainian Medical colleges? A quick Google search tells me that MCI doesn’t even take many of these colleges seriously?
— Atul Mishra (@TheAtulMishra) February 26, 2022
For 83 thousand odd seats, over 16 lakh appeared for the entrance exam in 2021. As per the NEET result statistics 2021, a total of 8,70,075 candidates qualified for the exam. Safe to say, a vast majority would have had their heart broken for not getting a decent government medical college.
Ukrainian medical colleges are affordable
The private colleges charge astronomical fees that are way out of reach for middle-class students and thus the Ukrainian medical colleges are a God-send opportunity. According to a Quartz report— fees for MBBS in Ukraine can vary from $3,500 to $5000 (Rs 2.65 lakh to Rs 3.8 lakh) per year which is affordable for the Indian students — and the education standards are high.
Meanwhile, in India a student needs Rs 10 to 12 lakh annual fee for this four- and half-year course and one need to spend Rs around 50 lakh to complete the course in any private college
There is no requirement of an entrance exam and the students can easily pick the college of their choice and get themselves enrolled. To get admission to an MBBS course in Ukraine, students just need to qualify NEET, as there is hardly any criteria for a high score. The presence of diaspora is another big factor that contributes to the migration of students.
The degrees can be used worldwide
Also, all of Ukraine’s universities are accredited by the World Health Organization and UNESCO. Apart from this, Ukrainian medical degrees are also recognised by the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, European Council of Medicine and General Medical Council of the United Kingdom. Moreover, akin to India, there is extensive practical exposure to the students in Ukraine, pursuing their medical dreams.
In return, candidates must take the Foreign Medical Graduates Exam Those who clear the exam are eligible for an internship and licence to practise. Nearly 4,000 students with medical degrees from Ukraine take the FMGE each year, but only about 700 pass. Despite the low success rate, the influx of Indian students in Ukraine has only risen in recent times.
The government should build the medical infrastructure
Thus, the onus is on the government to stop the brain drain from happening before the students even acquire the required skill set. The previous governments neglected the medical infrastructure in the country and the country is now missing out on the money and the talent of these students.
Under Manmohan’s ‘illustrious’ 10-year tenure as the subservient of Sonia Gandhi — the UPA regime only managed to take the total number of AIIMS to 8, out of which 6 came under the tenure of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. However, in PM Modi’s nearly 8-year tenure, 11 additional AIIMS have been added while the work is nearing completion in a few of them.
According to the data provided by Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, AIIMS at Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Jodhpur, Patna, Raipur and Rishikesh are fully operational and the ‘target date of completion for the remaining 16 ongoing AIIMS projects, is fixed at 2022. 2023 for two institutes and one each in 2025 and 2026.
The evacuation in full flow
As for the evacuation of the students, Partha Satpathy, Ambassador of India in Ukraine, remarked that the embassy in Kyiv would continue to operate till every Indian is evacuated. He said, “The Embassy of India in Kiev continues to operate round the clock 24X7. Today morning we woke up with the news that Kiev is under attack, the whole of Ukraine is under attack. This has generated a lot of anxiety, uncertainty, and created tension. I would like to assure all of you that the Embassy of India continues to operate around the clock looking out for the safety and security of Indians here,”
— India in Ukraine (@IndiainUkraine) February 24, 2022
The EAM will ensure that all the students are escorted safely back to the country but it is high time that we turn inwards and start strengthening our medical education sector, for we cannot afford to lose on our bright minds to foreign countries.