15,000 MBBS students pursuing course online, says central govt


The Centre informed the Supreme Court on Tuesday that around 15,000 students who had returned from the war-torn Ukraine are pursuing their undergraduate medical degrees online.

Only 640 of the 15,783 Ukraine-returned students whose information is accessible with the ministry of external affairs are in the conflict zone to finish their coursework, according to the Centre, while 170 have been admitted to Ukrainian partner universities abroad.

An affidavit filed by the ministry of health and family welfare provided the Court with these numbers in response to a number of petitions filed by associations of students wanting to continue their studies in India due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

On November 11, the Court demanded information from the Centre regarding the number of students who had accommodations in other nations as part of the government-instituted academic mobility programme.

The National Medical Commission (NMC) approved this programme, allowing students to finish their coursework in other nations while still receiving a Ukrainian degree in the end.

The affidavit filed on Monday said, “Information has been obtained from ministry of external affairs that a total 15,783 Indian students are enrolled in various medical universities of Ukraine, out of which 14,973 students are undergoing online classes conducted by the concerned medical universities of Ukraine, and 640 students are undergoing offline mode of education in Ukraine.”

Under the academic mobility programme, the Centre said, “170 students though enrolled with Ukrainian universities are pursuing their education at partner universities in other countries under the academic mobility programme.”

Further, the affidavit said, “In addition, there are 382 students who applied for academic mobility but their applications were not accepted either by the Ukrainian university or the receiving partner university.” This was for various reasons, including non-payment of fees, poor academic record, or non-availability of free seats.

A bench of justices Surya Kant and Vikram Nath posted the matter for November 29 as many of the student petitioners did not get a copy of the Centre’s affidavit.

At the height of the Covid pandemic, medical students who had just returned from schools in China and the Philippines also filed petitions. Due to travel restrictions, these students were unable to physically complete their coursework and sought to take advantage of any accommodations the Center made for students in similar circumstances to those in Ukraine.

The bench instructed the NMC attorney Gaurav Sharma to seek guidance on the petitions submitted by students who had just returned from the Philippines and China.

On September 6, the NMC announced that it had no objections to the government’s academic mobility programme, which provided students the option of continuing their studies at any foreign university that collaborated with Ukrainian medical universities.

In September, the Center submitted an affidavit to  top court arguing that Indian schools cannot accept students evacuated from war-torn Ukraine because doing so would be unfair to local candidates who were unable to attend these institutions.

It was further stated that students from overseas colleges cannot move to India using the NMC public notice dated September 6 authorising “global mobility” as a “back door entry.”

The Center additionally asserted in its affidavit that NMC had taken further measures to permit medical students from China and Ukraine who finished their coursework before June 30, 2022 but were unable to participate in an internship to sit for the Foreign Medical Graduate Exam (FMGE). This is a screening test that the NMC administers that international medical students must pass in order to practise in India.

As a result of the escalating war in Ukraine, the Court has ordered the Centre to reconsider its position.

A month ago, the Indian embassy in Kyiv issued a public announcement urging Indian citizens to leave Ukraine due to a spike in violence there.

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