There's One Sure Way To Get Into Medical School In India

A mother holds her daughter as they wait for treatment on a converted DC-10 Aircraft used as a flying opthalmic hospital at Kolkata airport in India. Chris Jackson/Getty Images

The British medical journal The BMJ has called for action over illegal payments made to India’s private medical colleges to smooth a student’s entry.

Known as “capitation fees”, they are effectively a compulsory one-off donation, sometimes of more than 10,000,000 rupees (almost AU $200,000)

Despite India’s Supreme Court declaring the practice illegal, capitation continues because of high demand for medical degrees.

One undergraduate student told The BMJ: “It is almost impossible to get admission into government colleges. And in many private colleges it is difficult to get a seat without paying huge sums of money.”

The situation seems to have deteriorated recently as the regulator of medical education, the Medical Council of India, did not renew permits for at least 10 medical colleges, with 6,390 seats lost.

Ravi Narayan, community health adviser at the Centre for Public Health and Equity, Bangalore, said that the big concern is that many of the newer institutions are set up with substantial political backing.

“This resulting culture of having to pay your way through the system introduces financial pressures which may be in conflict with the values and ethics of medicine, which are steadily getting eroded,” Narayan says.

In an accompanying article, Sanjay Nagral at Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre in Mumbai says Indian citizens need reminding that growing commercialisation in healthcare and medical education is linked to the corruption they experience in their healthcare encounters.

In 1983, he helped lead a strike by junior doctors in Maharashtra to oppose a government proposal that would permit private medical colleges, which would accept “capitation” fees.

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