Medical Feat : Indian doctors, Made in China

Medical Feat : Indian doctors, Made in China

Since private medical university fees are too expensive for the average Indian, the dream of becoming a doctor was only within the reach of the well-off that is, until 2003, when Chinese universities touting low tuition threw open their doors to them.

Thousands of made-in-China Indian doctor hopefuls enrolled in Chinese medical universities eager to take advantage of this deal, which seemed too good to be true and, as they are finding out, might actually be.

Soon after enrolling, these students discovered something that troubles them.

“Our futures depend on luck now,” said one 21-year-old second-year student studying at Tianjin Medical University ( TMU ) who declined to give his name for fear of getting “in big trouble” with the school.

“We can’t stop now; it’s too late. We’re just hoping for the best, that by the time we graduate, the Medical Council of India ( MCI ) will recognize our degrees.”

The Indian Embassy in Beijing estimates between 4,000 and 10,000 Indians study medicine at Chinese universities but said it is impossible to know the exact number because not all of them register with the embassy.

In 2004, more than 20 medical universities began aggressively recruiting Indian students, promising low tuition and English-language instruction. With 263 Indians enrolled in its medical programme, TMU has one of the largest Indian medical student populations in China, said Guo Fenglin, director of the school’s International Exchange Department.

“This university provided us a guarantee that we could get a reliable deal so we would be allowed to practice medicine when we go home,” said Prokash Kumar, 18, a second-year TMU student from Tamil Nadu. “The promise the university gives us, we believe they’ll follow.”

Kumar said he believes that as long as he passes the MCI Screening Test, he will be allowed to practice medicine in India because MCI will recognize the degree he will have earned. The university’s syllabus, he pointed out, is nearly identical to those of India’s universities, so he says he should be prepared for the test.

“It would be the university’s responsibility to help us out because we have relied on the university and would have relied on them for five or six years. We have followed the rules,” he said. “If the degree is not recognized, that would mean we just wasted five years of our lives. That is not a trivial thing.”

A chief officer with MCI did not respond to questions sent and re-sent over a week-long period by fax and e-mail.