Aspiring medical students flock to China
By Nirmala Ganapathy and Ho Ai Li,The Straits Times/Asia News NetworkJohnce Joseph, an 18-year-old from the southern Indian state of Kerala, has only ever wanted to become a doctor.
August 20, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
But Johnce, a class-topper with a 97-percent score in high school exams, found that the only way to follow her dream was to leave India, where a demographic bulge has made competition to get into a medical college as high as the fees.
Next month, she is packing her bags and leaving family and friends to pursue a medical degree at Wuhan University. Her degree from China will end up costing her 3 million rupees (US$48,803), versus 8 million rupees (US$129,768) in India.
Johnce is one of a growing number of international students flocking to China to study medicine, drawn by lower fees, English-language courses and increasingly cosmopolitan campuses.
“My cousin is studying there and I know doctors who have studied in China and working in India,” she said.
In 2011, China hosted more than 27,000 foreign students doing degrees in Western medicine, up from 20,000 in 2009, according to Chinese media reports.
They hail mainly from Africa and Asia, with a handful from the United States and Europe.
Singaporean Keith Sun, 28, who is studying medicine at Fudan University, was drawn by factors like Fudan's reputation and lower fees compared to medical schools in the U.S., Britain or Australia.
For instance, tuition fees for the English-language Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) course at the Shanghai-based Fudan is 75,000 yuan (US$12,264) a year, compared with AU$40,000 (US$36,760) or more at Australian universities.
To be sure, degrees from universities in China are still not as widely recognized as those from British and American universities.
Singapore recognizes only eight Chinese universities, compared with 34 from the U.S. and 22 from Britain, according to the Singapore Medical Council.
For Indian students, there is an added reason to seek out a foreign degree. India has a 1.2 billion population, with half under the age of 35, so the competition to get into college has never been tougher.
In China, the number of students taking the national college entrance exam has dropped as more go overseas to study.
Each year in India, an estimated 700,000 students take a centralized test for 31,000 spaces in some 350 private and government medical colleges. An MBBS in India costs anything from 5 million rupees to 9 million rupees.
The number of Indian students going to China each year has grown by 10 percent to 20 percent, education specialists say.
Of the 9,200 Indian students now studying in China, 90 percent are doing an MBBS course.