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 Private greed diluting medical education 

By Rajiv Shukla
NEW DELHI :
Private medical colleges are more to be blamed for declining standard of medical studies in the country, says newspaper sample survey.

The survey, conducted by the Times of India correspondents says that private greed rather than SC/ST reservation account for falling standards in medical education.

Citing examples of National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) scores, the news report says that in Assam, only 49 of the 603 students admitted were below the cut-offs that would have been needed (from 93rd percentile for unreserved to 74th for ST) to fill all the seats available if merit alone mattered and all students who qualified were willing to join.

In contrast, in Uttar Pradesh, over 2,900 of the 4,908 students admitted were below the cut-offs calculated on the basis of merit (from 97th for unreserved and OBC to 75th for ST). About 95% of these students were in the private colleges in UP.

This happens because many high-scoring students from the different categories cannot afford the exorbitant fees charged by private medical colleges and are forced to drop out despite merit. This allowed rich students with scores as low as 17-18% at the 50th and 40th percentile cut-offs to grab the seats.

The news report said it analysed details of nearly 57,000 students admitted to 409 colleges last year. The average NEET score of students in government-controlled seats was 448 out of 720, while scores of those admitted on management quota seats averaged just 306.

There was an obvious difference of about 140 marks, or close to 20 percentage points, between the average NEET scores of admissions to over 39,000 government-controlled seats and those to the over 17,000 management and NRI quota seats in private colleges where fees determine admission.

The conclusion of the story was that private greed and money, not SC/ST quota, dilutes merit in medical admissions : it is not caste-based reservation but money that compromises merit in medical admissions.

The report says that the average score of students admitted under the SC quota in government colleges was 398 and the overall average for SC students in all colleges was 367, both much higher than the overall average for private management controlled seats.

The study shows that higher the range of fees, the lower the average NEET score of students admitted in medical colleges.

As a result, the NRI quota, which typically has the highest fees, has the lowest NEET scores, a mere 221 on average.

The correlation between fees and NEET scores can be seen even in government colleges, some of which have started charging fees beyond the means of even middle-class families. The average score of students in government colleges where the annual fee is less than Rs 50,000, was 487, whereas for those with fees of a lakh or more, it was 372.5.

Even with the government helping colleges fill the high-priced seats by keeping cut-offs as low as possible, many private colleges in Karnataka, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra were in the news in 2017 for being unable to fill NRI seats, and in some cases even management quota seats, which forced them to slash fees.

The seats remained vacant not because there weren’t meritorious students, but because there weren’t enough of them willing to pay such high fees.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest beneficiaries of the management and NRI seats are students from the unreserved category, accounting for over 60% of these seats (10,373 out of 17,243). OBCs account for almost 29% and SC and ST together amount to just 3%. The average score of unreserved students getting private seats (361.5) is less than the average score of SC category students in government colleges (367).

PIL in Madras HC

It may be recalled that a PIL has been filed in the Madras High Court for a direction to the State to fix the tuition fee structure for all medical courses offered by the Deemed Universities (DU) for 2017-18, taking into consideration the complete financial statements, i.e. annual returns of the DUs and their entities.

The first bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar, before which the PIL from Jawaharlal Shanmugam of Tiruvanmiyur came up for hearing, included all 10 DUs in the State as party-respondents and ordered notice to them, returnable by July 17.

Petitioner submitted that the tuition fees fixed by the DUs are not co-related to the actual income, i.e. earnings of the medical college concerned and its hospital. The huge profits made by the hospital attached to the medical college are not taken in to account. Only the expenses incurred by the college are reflected in the accounts. Creating a posh and sophisticated atmosphere inside the campus cannot be the criteria to fix exorbitant tuition fees.

The exorbitant tuition fees running into several lakhs of rupees charged by the private medical colleges and DUs are beyond the reach of any common meritorious candidate. The real merit-based admission even through NEET would have no meaning. The very objective of the NEET-based merit admission is getting defeated in the context. The private medical colleges and the DUs are operating with the sole intention to amass wealth through black and white money generation. The DUs are all managed by highly influential people with enormous political clout and to perpetrate corrupt activities, petitioner contended.

 

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