Writ filed at Supreme Court demanding clarity in provision on medical seats for foreign studentsPetition comes at a time when controversy is raging in Dharan medical college over the issue
A writ has been filed at the Supreme Court demanding clarity of a provision in the Medical Education Act which prohibits a medical institution from allocating more than a third of the total seats for foreign students at the undergraduate or postgraduate level.
Clause 17 (5) of the Act states that the number of seats for foreign students in undergraduate or postgraduate level should not be more than one-third of the total seats.
Saying that the provision was not clear and that it allowed a medical institution to allocate seats of major postgraduate programmes to foreign students rather than Nepalis, Dr Puspa Mani Kharal has filed a writ at the apex court demanding clarification of the provision.
“At undergraduate level, the provision can be a limitation for a medical institution to not allocate more than one-third of the total seats for foreign students, but at postgraduate level, it has been a loophole,” Kharal, a general practitioner at Metro Kathmandu Hospital, told the Post.
“There are various medical subjects at postgraduate level and the provision is unclear if an institution can allocate more than one-third of the seats across all postgraduate courses or for a single programme,” said Kharal. “The writ has been filed so that the provision can be clarified further. The clarification would limit medical institutions from providing more postgraduate seats to foreign students for major and important programmes.”
The writ has come at a time when the Dharan-based BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences (BPKIHS) is facing a similar controversy after providing more seats to foreign students in certain MD and MS programmes.
A week ago, Junior Resident Welfare Society, a grouping of junior resident doctors at the BPKIHS, had padlocked the offices of the Vice-chancellor and Rector after the academy allocated more seats for foreign students in postgraduate programmes.
“Following the provision, the BPKIHS did not provide more than a third of the total postgraduate seats to foreign students. But it provided more seats to foreign students than to Nepalis in major and important programmes,” said Kharal.
In a notice posted on its website on June 22 the BPKIHS has stated the allocation of three seats each in internal medicine and paediatrics and four seats in surgery for foreign students.
The BPKIHS has been allocated five seats each in internal medicine and paediatrics, and six surgery.
After the BPKIHS resident doctors protested against the seat allocation for foreign students, institute’s Vice-chancellor Dr Raj Kumar Rauniyar claimed that the number of seats allocated to foreign students was in line with the provision of Medical Education Act—a third of the total postgraduate seats.
“As the provision remains unclear, medical institutions can perform similar activities again. They will allocate more seats in important programmes to foreign students, but as a whole they would make it less than one-third,” Kharal told the Post.
Following the wrong step taken by the BPKIHS, resident doctors in Kathmandu had drawn the government’s attention by submitting a memorandum to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health and Population Upendra Yadav on June 23.
“In foreign countries, foreign nationals are allocated seats in postgraduate programmes only after admitting their own citizens,” Dr Sulochan Lohani, general secretary of the Young Doctors Association, told the Post. “However, in Nepal, seats in major courses are allocated to foreign students rather than providing them to Nepalis.”
Following protests from doctors across the country, the BPKIHS published a new notice on June 30 in which it has decided to reduce the number of seats allocated to foreign students two each in internal medicine and paediatrics, and three in surgery.
Even officials at the Medical Education Commission find the provision of the Medical Education Act unclear on seat allocation for foreign students in postgraduate programmes.
“The provision states that an institution cannot allocate more than one-third of the total seats to foreign students. But it’s unclear whether it is for a single course or the overall postgraduate programmes,” Chandra Kanta Bhusal, secretary of the commission, told the Post.
Amid the controversy surrounding the provision of the Act and protest at the BPKIHS, the Nepal Medical Council had written to the commission, saying that the provision of allocating one-third of the seats to foreign students should be implemented in a single subject of postgraduate courses rather than as a whole.
“The recent example of the BPKIHS suggests that a medical institution can allocate more seats in important postgraduate subjects to foreign students in line with the provision because as a whole they would not exceed the one-third limitation. We are also holding discussions to amend the provision and make it clearer,” said Bhusal.