When you started exploring options for medical education abroad, China had a lot to offer,”

Tough competition, few seats and rising costs of medical education have prompted Indian students to look at education abroad, and countries like China and Russia are attracting Indians, with a host of student-friendly measures.

Affordable education

Affordable costs of education and living, and easy access to admission, are the two important factors attracting Indians to Chinese andRussian universities.

“The Russian government heavily subsidises education and hence it is affordable to a middle-class foreign student,” said Asish Sondhi, director of the International Foundation for Studies and Culture (IFSC), an Indian-based organisation that helps to promote premium Russian universities and academies in India.

“In India, the demand for medical education exceeds the current supply. Also with the private and deemed universities, which charge a heavy capitation fee [charging money in exchange for admission], the middle-class section of the society is deprived of quality medical education,” Sondhi said.

Compared to the US, UK and other European countries, the cost of medical education in countries like China and Russia is much lower and varies from US$3,400 to US$6,000 per year.

Indian students have to satisfy minimum qualifications but are not required to clear any entry tests for either Chinese or Russian universities, which is a big attraction for many students.

Overcoming the language barrier

Neither Russian nor Mandarin is a popular foreign language in India. But universities have overcome this by
teaching in English.

“The teaching is in English. But we are also given language classes to learn Mandarin. By the time you enter the fifth year of internship or practical work, you are fluent enough in Mandarin to be able to intern at a local hospital,” said Dr Pradeep Banerjee, an alumnus of China Medical University who is now practising in a private hospital in Hyderabad.

For Dr Mathari Sanjeev Kumar, who graduated from Odessa State Medical University in Ukraine in 2009, adjusting to the language, food and culture took some time.

“The culture and language is so different to ours. But these can be overcome because you get admission and the course structure is similar to that of India. Moreover, compared to private medical colleges in India I had to pay much less,” said Kumar, who is now working as a junior resident in Ram Manohar Lohiya hospital in New Delhi.

According to Sondhi of the IFSC, Russian-speaking countries have woken up to the potential of international students, especially from Asia, and more universities are opting to teach in English.

Streamlining regulations

China opened medical education to Indian students in 2004, with four universities offering English medium education. The number has since grown to 50 universities, which are approved by the Chinese government and the Medical Council of India (MCI).

The MCI has a list of the 50 approved Chinese institutions, where fees are regulated by the government. The MCI provides eligibility certificates, which all students need before enrolling in a medical university abroad, to only these 50 institutions.

The Chinese government has also ensured quality education and better standards for international students.

“In 2006 complaints started coming in about the problems faced by foreign students, and the Ministry of Education intervened,” said V Rajaram, managing partner at Medico-Abroad, an education firm based in Hyderabad.

“It scrutinised and approved a list of institutions which could admit foreign students. It also streamlined the fee structure, curriculum and duration of medical courses.”

Notably, each university in China is allotted seats depending on infrastructure and teacher-to-student ratio. The number of seats can be reduced or increased depending on the status of the university during scrutiny.