The gap of about 40% between undergraduate and postgraduate seats in medical courses in India is likely be bridged in the next 2-3 years, according to plans drawn up by the health ministry, said people familiar with the development.
There are currently 96,077 seats for MBBS programmes in the country, compared with 64,059 seats for postgraduation courses in medicine and surgery, official data show, forcing many student to go overseas to specialise in various streams.
“The government is working to make sure that there are an equal number of seats for undergraduate and postgraduate medical courses in the country so that the gap is plugged,” a central government functionary said, seeking anonymity. “Currently, it is extremely competitive because the number of students who pass MBBS is significantly higher than the number of seats available in postgraduate courses. It needs to be corrected and hopefully in next 2-3 years, we should be able to take care of this issue.”
Of the total MBBS seats available, 51,712 are in government medical colleges. For postgraduate specialisations, 30,384 seats are available in government colleges. A majority of the aspirants who do not make the cut in India either opt for courses in other countries or choose a different career.
The effort to increase postgraduate seat is much needed, an expert said.
“This move will be more than welcome as experts in the field have been asking for it for a long time. A significant number of people shy away from taking up a course in medicine as they cannot be sure of getting a seat in postgraduation,” said Dr KK Talwar, former director, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh. “MBBS alone does not hold much value these days, and doctors would want to pursue higher studies. Therefore, this step will be of great significance.”
As many as 261 new medical colleges were established in past seven years since the National Democratic Alliance came into power in 2014, raising the total to 648 medical colleges in the country, according to official data presented during the winter session of Parliament.
The number of undergraduate seats has seen an increase from 51,348 before 2014 to 96,077 seats to date, an increase of nearly 87%. The number of postgraduate seats has risen by 105%, from 31,185 before 2014 to 64,059 seats now.
The Centre will also establish 157 more nursing colleges, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in her budget speech in Parliament on February 1. These colleges will be set up in co-locations with the existing 157 medical colleges established since 2014. Currently, there are close to 2000 nursing colleges in India, according to the government data released in 2020.
All identified medical colleges will be provided funding for the co-location initiative, officials said.
“There is a huge demand for health workforce, which we will be able to meet in the future when these doctors and nurses graduate,” said the functionary cited earlier. “The reason behind increasing seats is that it will eventually lead to increase in trained or skilled manpower.”