Image for representational purpose only
Image for representational purpose only

Centre bows to protest, restores permissible percentage of non-medical teachers in medical colleges

When the NMC replaced the Medical Council of India, the permissible percentage of non-medical teachers was reduced significantly in some departments, and removed entirely from others

In a major relief to the community of non-medical teachers with medical MSc or PhD qualifications and working in medical colleges, the central government has directed the National Medical Commission (NMC) to adhere to the previous Medical Council of India (MCI) norms regarding the percentage of non-medical teachers.

"The NMC may continue to adopt the old pattern of the permissible percentage of non-medical teachers for the time being, subject to the outcome of the pending court cases," said Union Health Ministry in its order. However, the subject of reducing the percentage of non-medical teachers in non-clinical departments of medical colleges is still pending before the court.

As per the MCI's Teachers Eligibility and Qualifications guidelines, non-medical teachers possessing medical MSc or PhD qualifications could be appointed to the extent of 30 per cent (50 per cent in Biochemistry) of the faculty positions in the five non-clinical departments of medical colleges. Meanwhile, when the MCI was replaced by the NMC, the same guidelines were incorporated in the draft document Amendment to Minimum Requirements for Annual MBBS admissions Regulations, 2020 released for public feedback on October 13, 2020.

However, when the final document emerged on October 28, 2020, the permissible percentage of 'non-medical' teachers was reduced from 50 per cent to 15 per cent in Biochemistry, from 30 per cent to 15 per cent in Anatomy and Physiology and completely abolished in Pharmacology and Microbiology. Availability of sufficient medical teachers and the introduction of the new competency-based curriculum in 2019 were the reasons attributed to this reduction.

However, the decision sparked a nationwide agitation by National MSc Medical Teachers' Association (NMMTA). "This U-turn was a bolt from the blue for all of us," said Dr Sridhar Rao, President NMMTA. "When the draft notification was published, the NMC was fully aware of the faculty shortages in medical colleges. In fact, in January 2020, the Board of Governors in supersession of the MCI had categorically stated that owing to the continued shortage of medically qualified teachers, the appointment of non-medical teachers should not be stopped. Despite the fact that there has been an increase in the MD seats in the non-clinical subjects, 40-50 per cent of them remained vacant. Therefore, such faculty shortages would naturally continue in the future," he added.

Dr Rao also alleged that when the NMC released the draft guidelines retaining the MCI's percentages, it was already aware of the faculty shortages and the new curriculum. He accused the organisation of falsely blaming the reduction in permissible percentages of non-medical teachers on these factors, calling them "mere afterthoughts put forth simply to justify its actions."

The NMMTA had filed an appeal on February 28, 2021 with the NMC under the provisions of the NMC Act, which was dismissed. Consequently, the association filed a second appeal on September 7, 2021 with the central government requesting to restore the previous MCI norms as far as non-medical teachers are concerned. "This appeal was vital for our survival. Although it was stated that the new guidelines would not affect the existing non-medical teachers, the contrary was happening on the ground," said Dr Rao.

"Not only did the new guidelines render several existing faculties jobless, but scores of students who had passed out from their medical MSc courses also found themselves ineligible to apply for tutor posts," said Dr Arjun Maitra, General Secretary of NMMTA.