The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare has asked the government to significantly increase the number of medical seats in both the undergraduate (UG) as well as the postgraduate (PG) levels in the country.
In a report on the state of medical education in India, it said, “With an annual influx of approximately 2 million aspiring medical students at UG and only 1/20 times the seats available, the demand far exceeds the availability.”
The committee recommended that a medical college, whether old or new, must be allowed to increase the undergraduate seats to a maximum of 250, in phases though.
“Leveraging technology for distance learning and organising virtual classrooms can be a supplementary solution to address the shortage of seats,” the report added.
There are 702 medical colleges in the country in 2023-24, up by 81 per cent from 387 in 2013-14, according to the report.
While MBBS seats have risen by 110 per cent and the number of PG seats is up by 118 per cent since 2013-14, the seat to candidate ratio remains high.
According to the latest data from the National Testing Agency (NTA), over 2 million candidates sat for the NEET-UG examinations in 2023 for 107,658 MBBS seats.
Similarly, data from the National Board for Examination (NBE) showed that only 68,073 PG seats were available for 208,898 candidates appearing for the NEET-PG during the same year.
The committee also expressed concerns associated with opening new medical colleges such as the number of prescribed department-wise vacancies and total bed capacity. Another concern was the requirement for 80 per cent average occupancy in attached hospitals.
“Even though India has achieved the World Health Organization (WHO) norm of a doctor-population ratio of 1:1000, such ‘one-size-fits-all’ criterion can lead to geographical imbalances,” the report said.
The committee also recommended the National Medical Commission (NMC) to release guidelines for a faculty development programme and establish a National Institute for Training of Medical Teachers. This would enhance the quality and relevance of education for future healthcare professionals.
It further recommended encouraging private investments in medical education and starting medical colleges run on the public-private partnership (PPP) model. This would address the variation of fees paid across different states and union territories.
“Providing incentives and regulatory support to private institutions willing to establish medical colleges can not only increase seat availability but also introduce healthy competition and innovation in medical education,” the report said.