Common test for medical courses, says Supreme Court

Common test for medical courses, says Supreme Court

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday passed an order that for the first time will enable a common medical entrance test for all private and government medical colleges in India.

The Medical Council of India (MCI) will oversee a common entrance test each for undergraduate and postgraduate medical programmes in the country. Every year about 30,000 students are admitted to undergraduate programmes and some 11,000 for postgraduate courses.

The order by justices R.V. Raveendran and A.K. Patnaik came after several medical colleges challenged the apex medical education regulatory body’s move to organize a common entrance test.

In response, MCI had moved the Supreme Court in October.

The decision to hold a joint entrance test would not only make it easier to administer, it will also reduce pressure on aspirants who sometimes have to appear in anywhere between 12 and 17 entrance examinations.

“Normally a student has to give 17 exams for one medical seat. Also there are problems like clash of dates and multiple fees. We had suggested a common exam as is in engineering. Then the MCI regulation came. But there was some problem in Tamil Nadu because of some private colleges," said A.D.N. Rao, an advocate for a group of students, who had in 2008 moved court demanding such a student-friendly move. “This court direction will be a big relief for students."

There are some 271 medical colleges in the country, of which 138 are government-administered and 133 are under private management.

MCI board members are “rushing for an emergency meeting" and will deliberate on the “possible implications" of the order on medical education in the country, said Ranjit Roy Chaudhury, member, board of governors of MCI.

The meeting was on till the time of going to press.

It was not immediately clear if undergraduate courses in dentistry and specialized postgraduate diploma courses such as in child health will come under the purview of the common entrance tests.

The response from private medical colleges was mixed.

K. Ramnarayan, vice-chancellor of the privately run Manipal University in Karnataka that also offer medical courses, said he was not against such a concept. “If you look at international practice, it’s not a bad idea. It’s a logical extension," Ramnarayan said. “We welcome the move if conducted objectively. Implementation and rigour of the test, however, need to be taken care of objectively."

P.K. Gupta, founder and chancellor of Sharda University in Greater Noida on the outskirts of Delhi, expressed some reservations. Since education and health are the responsibility of both the Centre and the state governments, the common tests could become contentious issues, he said.

“Every state has its own entrance test and now we have to see how it (the order) is impacting that," Gupta said. “We have not seen the court order and after reading the details, would be able to give a road map."

The court noted that since the decision in this regard has already been notified, MCI and the Central government can proceed on holding the common entrance test.

Advocate Amrender Sharan and Somesh Jha, appearing for MCI, drew the attention of the court that the Centre on 13 August had said MCI can go ahead with the implementation of a single entrance test, and the regulations were notified in December.

The judgement may also help resolve differences between the health and human resource development ministries. The latter was proposing that entrance tests for undergraduate engineering and medical programmes should be clubbed together.

PTI contributed to this story.