A day after the National Medical Commission (NMC)- the apex regulator of medical examination in the country, permitted Indian students from war-torn Ukraine to complete their education in foreign universities under the academic mobility programme, medical counselors are asking if first-year medical students will be eligible for the one-time relief.
Counselors say the commission needs to give more clarification from regarding the potential beneficiaries since foreign medical students are covered by two separate regulations depending on the date when their offline classes resumed.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 resulted in as many as 18,000 students fleeing the country amidst the bombing. With no sign of the war ending, universities in Ukraine have partnered with foreign universities offering similar curriculum for their student exchange programmes under the academic mobility programme.
The programme allows medical students to complete their education at medical universities in other countries globally under student exchange programmes. The student’s final degree is issued by the parent Ukrainian university.
On Tuesday (September 6), the NMC stated its approval for the academic mobility programme offered by Ukraine to students in its medical colleges through a public notice stating, “The mobility programme offered by Ukraine has been considered in the commission in consultation with the ministry of external affairs, wherein it was intimated that the academic mobility programme is a temporary relocation’ to other universities in different countries globally,”
However, the NMC notice also mentions, “The commission hereby conveys its No-objection for the academic mobility programme in respect of Indian medical students who are studying in Ukraine provided that other criteria of Screening Test Regulations 2002 are fulfilled.” It is this reference to the Screening Test Regulations 2002 that has raised doubts about student eligibility for the mobility programme.
According to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on NMC’s website, foreign medical students are covered by two separate regulations depending on when their classes began. All those whose classes started prior to November 18, 2021 are covered under the provisions of the Screening Test Regulations 2002 and those whose classes started after November 18, 2021 are covered in the Foreign Medical Graduate Licentiate Regulations (FMGL) 2021.
Stressing that only the actual classroom resumption date will be taken into account while considering the applicability of the regulations, the FAQs further state, the date of offer letter/invitation letter/admission letter will not be considered to decide the applicability of FMGL Regulations 2021.
An estimated 4,000 first-year students were to begin colleges in Ukraine for the September 2021 and January 2022 course cycle. Unfortunately despite their offline classes being scheduled for September, classes actually resumed in December due to COVID-related flight restrictions and delays.
“Going by the NMC’s stringent definition of these two regulations, all first-year students who applied for the September cycle will now be covered by FMGL 2021 norms and not the Screening Test Regulations 2002 criteria that the NMC’s notice says should be fulfilled,” says Delhi-based medical education counselor, Anuj Goyal, Get My University.
All second-year and beyond are clearly bound by the 2002 regulations students and always have the option of taking transfers to another university of their choice since the 2002 regulations has no specific clause prohibiting transfers to universities in other countries. The NMC’s current notice gives them the added option of the mobility programme too.
However, such options will not be available for the first year students who are bound by the FMGL 2021 norms. The norms require all first year students to undergo a minimum of 5.5 years or 54 months of medical education. Students also need to complete a minimum 12-month internship at the same foreign medical institution.
“The first-year students to whom the 2002 regulations do not apply remain ineligible for the transfer option. So if their issue has to be resolved, the only option for them would be to go for the academic mobility programme approved by their universities. However, by adding the Screening Test Regulations 2002 clause, the NMC has raised doubts about first-year students’ eligibility for the academic mobility programme. It’s a technical issue that the NMC needs to clarify at the earliest in the interest of first-year students since many students might shell out fees for the same,” adds Goyal who is seeking information for the same under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
Several Ukraine returned students had filed petitions in the Supreme Court asking to be admitted to Indian medical colleges for the remainder of their courses. However, the current approval has kept Indian medical colleges out of the ambit of Ukraine returned students.
However, NMC regulations prohibit students from foreign medical institutes to continue any part of their pending course in medical colleges in India since neither the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 nor the Indian Medical Council Act, 2019 have provisions to accommodate such transfers.
NMC’s approval also paves the way for the students to write their foreign medical graduate exam (FMGE) after course completion. Clearing the FMGE exam is mandatory for all foreign returned medical students who want to apply for permanent registration to practice medicine in the country.
In July this year, as a one-time relaxation, the NMC agreed to allow final-year medical students from Ukraine and pandemic-hit China to write the FMGE after students approached the Supreme Court for relief. Students who had completed their course on or before June 30 but were unable to complete their clinical training at their universities would, however, have to undergo a compulsory rotating medical internship (CRMI) for two years.
Earlier in May, the Supreme Court had upheld the NMC’s strictures for foreign medical graduates with regard to practicing in the country.
Read: NMC has not approved transfer of foreign medical students in Indian institutes’National, News