Indian medical students in Chinese universities have been stuck in limbo for two years

Hands-off training.
Hands-off training.
Image: REUTERS/Amit Dave
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Two and a half years into the pandemic, Indian medical students enrolled with Chinese universities are still in limbo.

Thousands such students left China in early 2020 because of the spread of covid-19, hopeful that they could return to complete their training. But in the absence of visas and flights to China, Indian students have been stuck taking online classes with no hands-on experience.

Students have been protesting the Indian government’s inaction on this issue for months. On May 29, students gathered in New Delhi to press the government to take action. “I came back during my third year, in January 2020, and all my work has been online since then,” 24-year-old Sonia George, a student of Sichuan University, told The Indian Express newspaper. “We need hands-on experience. Without that, how can we say we are doctors? I’m confused if my degree is even valid or not without it,” she said.

Indian medical students in foreign universities

Indian medical students enrolled with Chinese universities are, unfortunately, not alone; students who have returned from war-torn Ukraine are in a similar fix.

Approximately 23,000 Indian students were in Chinese universities, and 20,000 Indian students were in Ukraine, most of them in medical colleges (an estimated 70,000-90,000 students enroll in medical school in India every year). They risk losing years of medical education because their credits don’t transfer, or because their lack of hands-on experience invalidates the years they’ve already done.

Several students from India choose to study in countries like China and Ukraine because of increasing education costs in India, and how competitive it is to get into reputable colleges.

In April, following months of protests, India’s Supreme Court directed the National Medical Commission (NMC) to establish rules to allow students affected by the war and the pandemic to complete their training in India. The NMC regulates medical education and the certification of medical professionals in the country.

But despite this directive as well as the Indian foreign ministry’s ongoing discussions with its Chinese counterparts, the students are still in limbo.

“Since 2020 we keep getting told that our issue will be addressed ‘soon’. We’re still here two and a half years later,” Md Waseem, a third-year student of Wanzhou University in China, told The Indian Express newspaper in Delhi.

Per the Supreme Court ruling, the NMC has until the end of June to devise a one-time framework for the students.