ON MARCH 4, as the sound of shelling boomed outside, the VN Karazin Kharkiv National University in eastern Ukraine alerted its international students about “scammers” promising transfers to other institutions in neighbouring Poland, Hungary or Romania.
A few days earlier, authorities of Danylo Halytsky Lviv National Medical University in western Ukraine informed its international students that those looking for transfers to other institutions outside the country would be provided with soft copies of key documents, such as marksheets and research papers.
They have managed to escape the war and return to India. But with no end in sight to the conflict and no indication of its outcome, Indian students pursuing medical degrees in Ukraine are caught between despair and hope. The big question: What next?
“The university management told us that we should be patient. As of now, the college is shut till March 13. Before that, for about a month, classes were held online due to Covid. Now, we don’t know what the future has in store,” said Aruj Raj V N, a second-year MBBS student at the university in Kharkiv.
Raj was among several students who received this message from the university: “Don’t fall victim to scammers about transfer to another university in Poland, Hungary or Romania…All you have to do is wait, soon you’ll be briefed on what next by the university. Please take caution and don’t be in haste, we pray the war ends soon.” The university infrastructure has been damaged by shelling.
Abhishek Singh, a fourth-year MBBS student at the university in Lviv, said authorities have told international students they can opt for transfers. “If we share the documents we have with them, we will be provided with soft copies of our marksheets and research projects, which will be required while applying for a transfer,” he said.
Richa Jha, a third-year student in Lviv, said the university has promised to send photocopies of documents by email. “The university is on vacation till this week. Perhaps next week we will be informed whether they plan to resume classes or not,” she said.
Ukraine is part of the European Credit Transfer System but a move to institutions outside the country is not easy. There are monetary and regulatory hurdles, say students.
“The annual fee in medical colleges in Ukraine is around USD 4,900 (around Rs 3.76 lakh). In other European nations, it can be up to USD 10,000 (around Rs 7.7 lakh),” said Abhishek Singh from Lviv.
This is a tough call for parents and students who opted for Ukraine due to the relatively low costs involved.
Yash Rana, 20, joined the Uzhhorod National Medical University in western Ukraine in December last year after failing to secure a government seat in India. In 2021, more than 16 lakh students applied through NEET-UG for 83,000 available seats across the country, half of which are in government colleges.
Yash’s father Raj Kumar Rana said he would pay around Rs 35 lakh for a six-year MBBS course in Ukraine, while a seat in a private college in India would cost “anywhere between Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1.5 crore for a duration of four-and-a-half years”.
Rashmi Singh, a fourth-year medical student in Uzhhorod, has received messages from “several colleges in Hungary” that she can transfer “at the same fee structure”. “But I would prefer that she continue her studies at the same university, if possible,” said her father Dr R K Singh, who is based in Faridabad.
Sonia Yadav, 21, a second-year student in Uzhhorod, has decided to wait for information from university authorities and continue with online classes — for now.
Then, there are the regulatory hurdles.
National Medical Council regulations for Indians students abroad state that the entire course, training and internship, or clerkship, should be done in the same foreign medical institution throughout the course of study.
Besides, under the National Medical Commission (Foreign Medical Graduate Licentiate) Regulations 2021, courses done in an online-only mode will not be recognised.
Shubham Gautam, who runs DSA Global, a consultancy that has contracts with three universities in Lviv for admissions, said: “We will have to wait for a fortnight at least for clarity. We don’t have any official word from either the Ukrainian or Indian side, so far. But we must keep in mind that universities in western Ukraine have not suffered any structural damage as such.”