Foreign nationals who had applied for MBBS and BDS courses in Indian private institutions for the academic year 2016 have been asked to leave. The Sunday Guardian spoke with some of the foreign nationals who find themselves in this predicament after the recent Supreme Court ruling of May this year which made NEET examinations mandatory for all students seeking medical admissions in private and deemed institutes.

Shenale Silva, a Sri Lankan national who had received her acceptance letter from Manipal University to pursue Bachelors in Dental Studies and started college on 16 September this year, said, “After getting my admissions done and starting classes for about a week they are asking us to leave because we haven’t taken the NEET. The thing is that we are foreign students and I am not eligible to write the NEET exam. My question is how am I supposed to clear NEET if I am not even eligible to take the examination?”

While the court ruling specifies that NEET needs to be cleared by all students, the NEET eligibility criteria say only Indian nationals and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) can take the exam. It makes no mention of foreign nationals. Students who are citizens of various countries and have applied for MBBS and BDS (Bachelors in Dental Studies) courses in private institutions in India now may lose a year. The number of students admitted to MBBS/BDS courses under the foreign category for the academic year 2016-2107 in Manipal University is 22 and they come from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, US, Canada, Australia and Nepal.

Distraught parents of these foreign students have been running from pillar to post seeking help. Shenali Silva’s father, Tilak Silva has flown down to New Delhi from Colombo. He met with the Sri Lankan High Commission officials who have said that they would be taking up the matter with the Indian Ministry of External Affairs. He said, “We respect India as a world university and they are closing the doors to foreign students. This is not nice. This is not correct. We are taking up the matter with the Government of India asking them to intervene. Please allow foreign students to come and be able to share knowledge.”

Manipal University on Friday informed the foreign students that the last day for admissions in BDS was Friday, 7 October and with no resolution in sight, the students would have to leave.

Devika Ganju, another affected student who hails from Canada, said, “I am absolutely devastated. To travel across the world and to be told to leave is extremely devastating. We had confirmed admission letters. Not once were we told about the exams or the need to write any exam”.

The Sunday Guardian got in touch with the Registrar of Manipal University Narayana  Sabhahit, who said, “We are actually helpless. We had to ask them to leave. We wrote to the HRD ministry questioning the policy. The government on the one hand, says students from abroad should come and study in India and on the other hand, NEET has to be cleared by everyone when there is no provision for foreign nationals to write the examination. We are in a fix.”

He added: “The students in our university are going through such trauma for the last 10 days. They are literally in tears. We tried our best to fight their case. The MCI should have included foreign nationals in the criteria of eligibility. The government will definitely have to change its policies. We will be taking up the matter with the government.”