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Medical students make a beeline to Philippines

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The Philippines has become a sought-after destination for the Indian students seeking MBBS admission in the island nation.

The number of Indian students studying in government and private-run medical colleges in that country has gone up more than two-fold to around 3,000 last year.

The island nation has turned favourite as China has cuts intake by almost half and sanctions have been imposed on Russia

The southeast Asian destination offers low-cost of education and has a large English-speaking community, besides the expanding presence of Indian businesses and growing domestic tourist inflows.

Also, driving the interest among the Indian students is the extensive efforts being made by the local education consultants, predominantly in the south, to popularise the country as the ideal low-cost destination.

It is learnt around a total of 10,000 students were admitted in overseas medical universities in the last academic year, and this is expected to go up at least 10-15 per cent this year.  

Education consultants whom Business Standard spoke to said the Philippines was being increasingly preferred due to the “cost factor” and the air travel time of 8-12 hours from major metros.  

“We expect around 3,700 Indian students to join universities in the Philippines this year, as against 2,700-3,000 students in the last academic year,” said Subhashish Bhaumik, head of Omkar Medicom, a leading education consultancy. On average, in a class of 100 overseas students, Indians numbered up to 90 in most of the 20-22 universities in the Philippines, he added. Each of its universities is making available a class of 150 students.

He said the country had a good mix of government and private-run medical universities, with the fee in state universities starting from Rs 12 lakh for the five-and-a-half year MBBS course, and the private sector varsities charging in the range of Rs 15-35 lakh. The fee includes student accommodation expenses during the course duration. The eligibility criteria is a minimum 50 per cent score in the related science subjects and 50 per cent in English. However, these students will have to sit for the MCI conducted conversion exam to get recognition.

The trend is expected to continue for the “next two-three years” as China, the other destinations have initiated steps to reduce the intake of overseas students in its varsities with an aim to achieve healthy balance in student intake from India and other Asian countries.

As against 6,020 seats placed under overseas admissions in 52 universities during 2013-14, China had reduced it significantly to 3,470 seats for 2015-16, as per the Medical Council of India (MCI) website.

On the Chinese move to check the inflow of Indian students in its universities, Paul Chellakumar, chairman of career consultant Campus Abroad, said China doesn't want to take risk as it was aiming to become an important destination in the lucrative global education services market. Regulating the flow of students from a single country was part of its well-devised strategy. China allows students from 33 countries to access its universities.

A Medical Council of India (MCI) official, on anonymity, said the Chinese might have decided not to risk their global standing in case the Indian students fail to meet the standards set by the group of developed nations for practising medicine.  

Even Canada had started tightening admission process for Indian students on similar grounds.

He added Russian universities had a bitter experience a few years ago as Indian students passing out from their universities fared poor on performance standards set by the UK and the US. However, Russia did not resort to Chinese-like steps restricting the intake. But the sanctions imposed by the US and European countries could discourage Indians to study in Russia, according to sources.

The average yearly tuition fees for MBBS courses in China is Rs 2.25-3.60 lakh, and the MBBS students from China who appear for MCI screening test have a record of more success when compared with those from other countries.

International students do not need to learn the Chinese language, Mandarin, for understanding their course but can opt for courses which are taught in English. Students completing their medical courses are eligible for appearing to the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), MCI screening as well as Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board of the UK.

However, Ukraine, the largest country in Europe, is creating favourable conditions for foreign students to study in its universities. The country admits a significant number of Indian students. Though the actual figures are not available, domestic consultants estimate it could be 600-1,000 every year.

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