South Asian MBBS students enrolled in Chinese universities stare at uncertain future

Thousands of international students who have chosen to study medicine in China are concerned about their academic plans. China has not yet opened its borders to foreign students enrolled in its universities, and those taking an MBBS program in that country claim to face more loss due to lack of practical experience.

Sanjeev Gupta*, 21, from Jaipur, Rajasthan, has been enrolled in an MBBS program at the University of South China since 2018 and returned to India during the winter break in January 2020. waiting for a formal announcement from the authorities.

“Universities have no idea of ​​our return and embassies cannot provide an update. We wrote to the authorities about six months ago and we have not yet received a response. The new semester at our university started on February 19 and we don’t see ourselves returning to campuses anytime soon,” Gupta said.

According to data released by the Indian embassy in China during the covid outbreak, more than 20,000 Indian students were enrolled in medical training. One of the reasons for Indians to move to China to pursue MBBS degrees is its affordable tuition. Gupta told that the average annual fee for MBBS courses in China is 21,000 Chinese Yuan (~2.5 lakh INR), which ranges from INR 4 lakh to 20 crore per year at an Indian private medical university.

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Another reason could be the cutthroat competition to get a high position in the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test – Undergraduate (NEET-UG), where more than 16 lakh students take the entrance exam for more than 83,000 MBBS seats.

Indian students claim they suffer more than their counterparts from other countries as a result of New Delhi’s decision to ban Chinese apps. Gupta agreed, saying that Chinese universities, like all institutions around the world, function remotely. However, instead of globally used applications such as Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and Zoom, Chinese universities use homegrown apps such as WeChat, SuperStar and DingTalk (Ding Ding).

“The ban on Chinese apps hinders my learning process. Connecting to a VPN to access these apps makes the system slow and the audio/video often freezes. If going back to offline classes is not an option, lifting the ban on these apps will at least give us the basic theoretical knowledge our classmates are getting,” said Rohit Kumar Yadav, a fourth-year MBBS student at Shihezi University.

He added that his party has not taken any laboratory classes so far and there is a possibility that the total duration of his education could be extended to include practical training. “Ideally, we should get hands-on experience with physical clinical training of about 1 year. While the theoretical components have been covered through online learning for the past two years, universities can extend the duration of the degree from 6 years to 7-8 years to provide practical experience. This can affect our professional and financial planning,” says 21-year-old Yadav.

When asked whether Indian students will bear the brunt of deteriorating bilateral relations between Indochina, Gupta declined, saying, “If it were a political issue, China would have allowed students from other countries entry.”

Abhay Pathania from Rajasthan is a fourth year MBBS student at China’s Xinjiang Medical University. He said the return of those who attended medicine courses in 2017 and 2018 should be speeded up. “It’s peak time now, we can’t wait any longer to go back to China… going back to China makes no sense after this year, especially for the 2017, 2018 batch. These groups are in their third and fourth years when practical training becomes a primary concern. Both sides have no knowledge of any real practical experience,” said 23-year-old Pathania.

Apart from the difficulties in accessing Chinese apps, Pakistani students are also in the same boat and have no idea of ​​their return. Muhammad Harram, 22, from Lahore, Pakistan, is also pursuing an MBBS from the University of South China and returned to his home country in January 2020 after the semester exams.

“When I returned to Pakistan, there was no coronavirus pandemic. The Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) has released an official statement that a foreign medical or dental degree obtained through an online medium without clinical training is not valid. If we don’t return soon and continue online learning, my degree could be voided,” Harram told

The PMC issued a statement on November 8, 2021 that read: “Any application made for licensing or recognition, based on an online qualification, without evidence of actual and physical clinical training, will not be considered and will be rejected.”

While the Pakistani government has not banned any apps from China, Harram said students will need their Chinese mobile SIM card to log in to the apps if they are logged out for any reason.

“One night before an exam in 2021, I updated my mobile phone and all the saved passwords were gone. In Pakistan I couldn’t access my Chinese mobile SIM card and ended up being marked as absent on that paper. Likewise, we are unable to speak directly to a teacher and have to go through the class representative,” Harram said.

In the second week of February 2021, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs is expected to agree to arrange for the return of Pakistani students to the campuses. The foreign ministry said it is considering the return of thousands of international students to China in a “coordinated manner”.

Abhishek Jaiswal, 23, who completed his 12th grade at the Capital College & Research Center in Kathmandu, Nepal, is experiencing similar problems. Jaiswal’s education will be completed in 2024, and he declined to name the university he attends.

“There is no learning environment in our hometown. MBBS is a diploma based on practical experience that we miss out on. Covid restrictions are being eased around the world. We are all enrolled in Chinese universities and hope to return to the campuses as soon as possible to save our future,” he said.

*Name changed on request

Sajal Jain
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