Several Indian high-rankers forced to pursue medical education abroad.

The Ukraine crisis has once again called into question the Indian medical undergraduate admission structure which continues to compromise merit despite the promise of merit-based and capitation fee free selections.

Low cut-offs for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for MBBS admissions is a major cause of concern with a large number of aspiring candidates qualifying for medical admissions creating a huge base of qualified aspirants and squeezing the space for high-rankers with low paying capacities.

Consider this, there were around 80,000 MBBS seats to be filled through NEET-UG 2021 scores, but over 8 lakh qualified based on 2021 NEET-UG cut-off which was a low of 138 out of the total possible marks of 720 in the unreserved category.

Read | NEET 2022 Preparation Tips By Experts

The low cut-offs, experts say, are creating a pool of candidates with capacities to pay hefty MBBS admission fees in India even if their ranks are low while those with better ranks, unable to afford the education, are forced to look for cheaper options in countries like China, Ukraine, Russia and even Bangladesh.

Past MBBS admission trends through NEET-UG cut-offs reveal how students with low ranks have ended up getting admissions in private colleges while those with better ranks have been pushed out of the system being unable to afford private MBBS education which could cost anywhere up to Rs 30 to 40 lakh a year with the cost of NRI seats exceeding even these limits in some institutions.

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Peri Maheshwer, a leading career expert, in a Facebook post, questioned Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi’s remarks that 90 per cent Indians who study medicine abroad fail the NEET-UG at home.

“NEET is a joke played on Indian students. For 2021, the qualifying marks were 138 out of a possible 720 marks. That is just 19 per cent which would not even make you pass your Class X exam. This eligibility is brought down so that more students qualify and the pool of those who can afford fees of Rs 1.25 crore to Rs 1.5 crores expands. If you make the eligibility at 35 per cent, most colleges can’t fill their seats,” he said.

Several other experts agree and question the medical regulators — erstwhile Medical Council of India and now the National Medical Commission for failing to stem the rot.

Although the MBBS seats rose from 52,000 in 2014 to over 80,000 in 2021, the need to further bridge the demand-supply gap remains pressing. Equally important is to ensure merit-based admissions through objective NEET-UG cut-offs, says a former member of National Board of Education which conducts the Foreign Medical Graduate Exam, the licensure exam for Indians who secure foreign MBBS degrees.

“Realistic cut-offs will enable merit-based admissions and stop the outflow of meritorious but economically weaker students,” he said.

Read | MBBS Students Of Chinese Universities Stare At Uncertain Future

Maheshwer pointed out that when NEET-UG was imposed by the Supreme Court, 90 per cent private colleges rose fee by at least 600 per cent.

“What was an upfront donation is now fees spread over five years. In 2020, of the 15.4 lakh students who appeared, about 8.7 lakh students qualified. And a student with 7.5 lakh rank also got into a private medical college. This student got 21 per cent marks and will soon be your doctor,” Maheshwer said.

He said the better students with better ranks but not necessarily the toppers are right now in Ukraine because “we made medical education unaffordable”.

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