The national entrance test for medical courses is unlikely to become a reality in 2011-12.

The proposed all-India common entrance test for admission to undergraduate and postgraduate medical courses in colleges across the country is unlikely to be held for the coming academic year 2011-12.

With the Medical Council of India (MCI) withdrawing its notification on conducting the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test under instructions from the Union Ministry for Health, Karnataka's Medical Education Minister S.A. Ramdas sought to make it clear that the test is unlikely to be held as it involved clearing several hurdles.

“First of all, such a test requires an amendment to the existing law in Parliament and it can happen only in the Parliament session scheduled for February. But, it would barely give any time for completing the formalities required for such an exercise,” he told The Hindu. He said a number of court orders on the reservation of seats in religious and linguistic minority institutions come in the way of such an exercise.

In the State, the proliferation of deemed universities (majority of which conduct their own entrance examinations) has meant that there are eight separate entrance exams that medical seat aspirants can take. Across the country, there are over 40 such tests conducted every year. Apart from every State conducting its own entrance test, the universities that were accorded ‘deemed university' status in the last decade have all opted out of the State entrance systems.

Though the withdrawal of the notification came after the Union Health Ministry strongly objected to the MCI's failure to obtain its consent in the matter, several States including Karnataka had opposed such a national-level exercise on various grounds.

“About three months ago, we had already written to the Centre seeking clarifications on a host of Karnataka-specific issues like rural weightage and sharing of seats with private medical colleges and the difference in fees fixed for merit seats and payment seats. But, we had not received any response,” Mr. Ramdas said. Hence, he said a whole gamut of issues is involved in the conduct of this test and it is unlikely that the outstanding issues will be resolved by the start of the next academic year.

This issue has elicited a mixed reaction from students aspiring for admission to medical courses. While one section felt that a national-level entrance test will give them relief from appearing for multiple tests, another section was of the opinion that such multiple tests actually gave them multiple chances. “If we do not fare well in one test, we can improve in another,” said an aspirant for a medical seat.

Multiple entrance tests also put a strain on the students, who not only have to submit a number of applications and pay the required fees for each test, but also prepare for each test. A national entrance test also reduces the possibility of a private medical college allowing some of its seats to remain vacant so that they can be filled up later through “backdoor means,” said a student aspiring for a PG seat.

If meritorious students fail to claim their seats, the managements are found to be allotting such seats to students willing to pay capitation fee.

Mr. Ramdas also felt that a national-level entrance test was beneficial to students despite certain shortcomings. “It gives meritorious students a better chance. For, there are few takers for medical seats in educationally backward States such as Bihar,” he said.

COMED-K stand

Meanwhile, Executive Secretary of COMED-K (Confederation of Medical, Engineering and Dental Colleges of Karnataka), S. Kumar, said private managements have no objection to a national test if it seeks to make the admission process more transparent. “But if it is being mooted only as a ruse to deny private managements their right to conduct admissions, we are not for it,” he told The Hindu.

He said managements of private medical colleges would like to have their say in the admission process. “For instance, they should be allowed to hold an aptitude test for the students.”

Student bodies such as Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) too have voiced their opposition to a national-level test. DYFI leader Rajashekar accused the Centre of forcing the States to fall in line as a first step to privatisation.

“Education is in the Concurrent List and hence the States should have a right to conduct examinations. If the entrance examination is held at a national level, poor and meritorious students may have to incur the financial burden of migrating to a different State to pursue their studies,” he said.

“Medical education will also become the exclusive right of the elite and rich like Indian Institutes of Managements (IIMs) if a national-level entrance test is held,” he added.