Indian medical students in Chinese universities face uncertainty, urge Beijing to relax Covid curbs
Students told Scroll.in that they are missing out on practical sessions and expressed worry that Indian authorities may not accept the degrees they receive.
The future of thousands of Indian medical students who took admission in Chinese universities remains uncertain due to the strict Covid-19 policy that China has adopted in the last two years.
On February 8, the National Medical Council warned prospective medical aspirants that it does not recognise online medical courses, a system that China has adopted for overseas students. “Students are advised to exercise due diligence in choosing where to pursue medical education from,” the National Medical Council said.
Several universities in China have begun MBBS admission procedures for the upcoming academic year. While offline classes continue for students located within the country, including practical lessons in hospitals, for students based outside the country, online classes will remain the mode of education.
Students in India are now campaigning for a relaxation in China’s policy to be able to enter the country to complete their medical courses. China suspended issuing visas from November 2020 and imposed strict travel restrictions as part of its zero coronavirus policy to control the pandemic. The country has recently allowed business visas, and visas for students from South Korea.
Rachita, 21, who requested that her full name not be disclosed, is a third year student in Shandong University in the Chinese city of Jinan. After finishing her first semester in the university, she had returned for a month-long vacation in Mumbai when the pandemic led to a lockdown in China. For the last four semesters, she has attended online classes.
“There are 10 Indian students from my batch who decided to stay back in China when India evacuated its students,” Rachita told Scroll.in. “They are able to attend practical sessions in the hospital, attend anatomy and dissection sessions, and have a better hand at treating patients. My knowledge is all theoretical.”
Rachita said 40 Indian students joined the Shandong University in the 2019 batch, which dropped down to one in 2020 and 2021 due to China’s Covid policy. “We are willing to follow quarantine norms and bear all expenses related to it,” she said. “The Chinese government should not deny us entry any more.”
Akshara Singh, aged 22, who studies in Harbin Medical University in the third year, said she joined the university in November 2019 and then online classes began from March 2020. “Since I returned to Rajasthan, I have been stuck here,” Singh said. “Frankly, I know the theory, but if I see a patient, I wouldn’t know which bone is where or which muscle is where.”
Indian medical students worry that the degrees they receive from Chinese universities by attending online classes will not be acceptable in India as a valid MBBS degree by the National Medical Council. Several interns who attended online internships in China have also not been recognised by any Indian state.
Singh said that the students have repeatedly reached out to their university to understand when they can return. “We have also protested outside the Chinese embassy in Delhi,” she added. “The Indian government said they are in talks with China, but no solution has been offered so far.”
The duration of an MBBS course is five-and-a-half years. Students are provided practical classes in hospitals for anatomy, medicine and clinical management from the third year.
Reeba, aged 22, a fourth year student in Hubei University in Wuhan city, which was the epicentre of Covid-19, said she has missed all her practical classes in the last two years. “Our time table has one or two online classes a week,” she said. “The rest are offline classes in hospital to check patients’ vitals, conduct diagnosis and assist senior doctors. I have missed all that.”
Reeba was among the first batch of Indian students evacuated from China in March following the outbreak of the coronavirus in 2020.
Many medical aspirants have lost interest in pursuing their studies in China. Students said that unless China opens its borders, it may fail to attract new students.
On February 13, Indian medical students will run an online campaign to urge the Chinese government to ease the travel restrictions.