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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

India Protests Russian Medical Training

Russian medical schools could lose some of their best paying customers, students from India, if that country's medical association gets its way.

The Medical Council of India is unhappy about the burgeoning number of Indians choosing to study medicine in Russia and says it worries they will be poorly qualified when they return home expecting to find work as doctors.

About 2,800 Indians are now in Russian medical schools, a huge increase over Soviet times, and the first sizeable number of graduates of the six-year programs are just starting to appear.

Last year, the medical council, which accredits India's medical schools and licenses its doctors, appealed to the Indian government not to recognize any Russian medical diploma received after Dec. 31, 1997.

The government did not act on the recommendation, and appears unlikely to take such harsh action, but the issue is still under discussion, said Ashok Sajjanhar, a diplomat in charge of education at the Indian Embassy in Moscow.

In April, the council sent an eight-member team to Russia. It recently delivered its report and recommendations to the Indian government, but Sajjanhar refused to divulge specifics before the government makes its ruling.

But he said the Indian students studying at the 12 major Russian medical schools recognized by India will not be denied licenses in India. The others -- 600 students, according to Russian figures -- may have trouble.

Russia currently has 9,500 foreign medical students, a sharp increase from around 4,000 in the Soviet period.

Other countries have raised similar concerns about the quality of medical training in Russia. Iran sent a delegation this year, but was satisfied when the Health Ministry agreed to transfer all medical students to the major medical universities, Russian officials said.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, universities saw a steady decline in state funding and began taking in paying students from abroad.

Moscow medical schools charge between $2,500 and $3,000 per year, while fees in provincial cities are lower, the Health Ministry said.

Russian officials have denied that this led to lower admission standards or any decrease in the quality of education.

"Paid-for education does not mean that for a price, we will accept any moron," said Nikolai Volodin, the head of the educational department at the Health Ministry, which supervises medical schools.

The sheer number of Indian doctors turned out by Russian medical schools seems to be at the core of the problem.

"We regulate how many doctors should enter the market each year," Sajjanhar said. "And it throws our calculations out the window when suddenly there are 3,000 extra students."

In Russia, foreign medical students do not take entrance exams. Instead, they have to complete a one-year language and science preparation program, after which many medical schools accept them without further testing.

The practice is in sharp contrast with the highly competitive system in India, the embassy official said.

"Ultimately, these medical students will come back to India and demand their medical licenses," Sajjanhar said. If they attend approved Russian schools and complete their residency successfully, they will not be required to pass a competency test.

Indian students in Russia, meanwhile, say they feel their job prospects are secure.

"We were told that until 2002 they will accept our diploma," said Sanjeev Singh, 23, who came to Moscow to attend the Russian State Medical University after two failed attempts to get into a medical school in his native Bihar, a province in northern India.