Admission for 22 MBBS and BDS in Bangladesh delayed by a year

Rinzin Wangchuk 

Admission to the prestigious and world renowned All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, has begun earlier this month, but Bhutanese students even, with undergraduate scholarships to pursue MBBS programme, were not able to join the institute.

This, according to an official from department of adult and higher education (DAHE), was because the Supreme Court of India (SCI) discontinued the foreign student quota to study at AIIMS.

The SCI in April 2020 issued an order stating that candidates applying for MBBS at AIIMS must appear for the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) and participate in the counseling for final seat allotments.

The entrance examination was introduced to “wipe out corruption and other evils in the system.” Prior to the SCI order, Bhutan used to send two science students who excelled in their class XII examinations to study MBBS at AIIMS through foreign students’ quota and need not sit for the common entrance examinations.

Following the SCI order on the need to sit for NEET, some Bhutanese students who qualified for the scholarship opted to pursue medicine in other countries at their own expense.

DAHE receives two MBBS slots at AIIMS in India and 18 slots in Sri Lanka annually. Currently, there are 10 students pursuing MBBS at AIIMS in India. The official, however, said that DAHE hasn’t stopped sending students to AIIMS.

Over the past 10 years, DAHE was able to implement 20 UG-scholarship students to pursue MBBS in India and around 162 in Sri Lanka –  University of Colombo, University of Peradeniya, University of Kelaniya and General Sir John Kotelewala Defence University.

DAHE officials said UG-scholarships are granted under two main funding sources, government of India (GoI) and royal government of Bhutan (RGoB). Under GoI funding through project tied assistance (PTA), all UG-scholarships are in India while same scheme under RGoB funding is in third countries.

162 UG-scholarship slots for 2022

DAHE’s scholarship and student support division (SSSD) administers the entire UG-scholarship programme for class XII passed students selected by the government for further studies. In April, DAHE announced 162 UG-scholarship slots for bachelor’s degree programmes in various professional and non-professional courses under different funding schemes. Of the 162 slots, 20 was for MBBS (8 in Sri Lanka, 10 in Bangladesh and 2 in India) and another 20 slots – 10 in Bangladesh another 10 in Sri Lanka for Assistance to Privately Enrolled Medical Students (APEMS).

UG-scholarships for MBBS and APEMS in Bangladesh and India are coordinated by DAHE through Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC).

APEMS scholarship scheme was introduced in 2009 through an executive order to address the acute shortage of doctors in the country. Under this scholarship, a student in Sri Lanka receives a tuition fee of Nu 300,000 annually. The scheme also provides a stipend after completion of the second year, which is 70 percent of the total stipend given to full scholarship students in Bangladesh.

Another 25 students were selected to study B.Sc nursing in India.


22 students waiting for colleges

In 2020, DAHE selected 20 students to pursue MBBS and another two for BDS (bachelor of dental surgery) in various medical colleges in Bangladesh based on the offer received from the government of Bangladesh under the SAARC quota.

However, the students are still waiting  for placement without any information on the colleges. One student wrote to Kuensel stating that they tried reaching out to every concerned authorities, but failed to get any confirmation. “Now it’s becoming really concerning for the 22 of us,” he wrote. “It’s been almost two years now and if we get delayed this year too, then we won’t get any placement due to the gap year.”

He also stated that classes for local students in Bangladesh already started a month ago. Some students also resorted to social media to express their disappointment over the delay in admission.

“There is nothing we could do. We did everything we could but the long wait is draining us,” one wrote on social media.

DAHE officials said that the department received the offer on February 28 this year and application with relevant documents for MBBS and BDS were submitted to the Bangladesh government on March 11 through the ministry of foreign affairs (MoFA).

“The admission of MBBS and BDS under the SAARC quota in Bangladesh, however, gets delayed by a year even in normal times due to the differences in examination timing in Bhutan and Bangladesh,” the official said. “Moreover, for this cohort of students,  admission was further delayed because of Covid-19 pandemic and unavoidable circumstances.”

The official, however, said that the department is continuously following up with the government of Bangladesh through the Bangladesh Embassy in Thimphu, MoFA, and Royal Bhutan Embassy (RBE) in Dhaka.

In a recent update, the committee of the Directorate General of Medical Education (DGME), Medical Education and Family Welfare Division of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Bangladesh,  met to discuss and finalise the application for the Government Medical and Dental Colleges.  “They will meet again this week to confirm admission for MBBS and BDS,” the officials from RBE Dhaka and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bangladesh said.

An official from Bangladesh Embassy said that all prospective MBBS/BDS students, both locals and overseas, have been facing delays since last year due to the pandemic.

“This year, the admission process is still going on, which hopefully will be completed in a week or two,”Counsellor and Head of the Chancery, Sujan Debnath, said. “Students from Bhutan, who have been nominated by the Bhutanese government have nothing to worry about.”