Restless is the young head that aspires for a medical seat in Tamil Nadu this year. Given the current number of seats available in the State quota and the comparatively higher rates being charged by self-financing medical colleges, things are not looking good at all on the medical front.

The total number of government seats currently available is 1,653, and there are 16,256 students who have scored 195 + marks in the State. Until a few years ago, 195 was a decent score and would guarantee a medical seat, irrespective of the community one belonged to. However, that is no longer true.

Education consultants are predicting, given this year's 12{+t}{+h} Standard results, the cut-off marks in medicine may rise by 1.5- 2 marks. Last year, the cut-off mark for OC students (see fig) after second round of counselling was 197.75. If that were to increase as per predictions, it is likely to go up to 199.25–199.75 marks depending on whether it increases by 1.5 or 2 marks. For BCs, it was 195.75 and it could go up to 197.25 (+1.5 marks) – 197.75 (+2 marks).

“Given the number of seats available, I have been forced to tell students from the OC group that even marks in the 198 percentile are insufficient to make it to a medical college under the State quota. This is extremely worrisome,” says C.Ramachandran, former Secretary, Selection Committee, Directorate of Medical Education.

It has been announced that a total of 635 seats would be surrendered by self-financing medical colleges, and that it would be added to the State pool. However, with Deemed Universities in the State approaching the court with a petition that their out-of-campus colleges should also be allowed to be with them, a question arises about the fate of these additional seats. If the judgment were to go in favour of the deemed universities, these seats will be lost to the State pool.

Getting into private medical colleges is not going to be easy either. Huge payments will have to be made, with about Rs. 3 lakh–Rs. 4 lakh being charged as tuition fees alone for the year. Comparatively, the fee in a government medical college is Rs. 25,000. The solution, Dr. Ramachandran adds, is to enhance the number of medical seats, not by starting new colleges, but by enhancing the capacity in existing government medical colleges.

“The current Board of the MCI is encouraging medical colleges to increase the number of seats to 250. We must make use of this. The essentials – wealth of clinical experience, adequate infrastructure and good staff strength – are available in most government colleges, we just need to make small, proportionate increases,” he explains.

The government has appealed to the MCI to up the number of seats at Madras Medical College, Stanley Medical College, and Kilpauk Medical College. It is being suggested that the same be done at the older Medical colleges of the State.

A retired Secretary of the Selection Committee says another issue that comes up every year results from re-totalling of marks.