Published: 22nd September 2022
NEET PG 2022 seat matrix explained: To what extent are NMC's last-minute policies impacting students?
The seat matrix is still being updated, even as the counselling for the NEET PG exam, which was conducted on May 21, is finally underway. Here's how experts view the situation
As the seat matrix for the counselling for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test Postgraduation (NEET PG) was made available on the official website of the Medical Counselling Committee (MCC), students noticed that there was a dearth of seats in non-clinical courses.
"This year seats in non-clinical courses have reduced by 8-12%," says career consultant and analyst, Jayaprakash Gandhi.
Here's the crux of the matter. Even as the MCC has commenced choice filling for seats by candidates from September 20, the seat matrix continues to be updated. Students have lambasted this scenario, with some calling it a joke, that the MCC is proceeding with counselling before the final seat matrix is available to the students.
However, they have noticed that the number of seats available to them has taken a dive, even though the NMC had announced that 371 new medical seats were being added to government, private and deemed medical universities this year.
Experts attribute this to the last-minute inspections carried out by the NMC to decide if these colleges are capable of offering postgraduate medical education. This process ended up derecognising seats that had earlier been declared by the NMC. Sources suggest that this last-minute inspection also caused a delay in the start of the counselling for the NEET PG
"Seats had been increased in a few colleges this year and NMC also issues a circular in this regard. And yet, we did not find them in the seat matrix. NMC should not have approved those seats if they were not going to be uploaded on the website. There is an absolute lack of clarity in the process," says Dr Karthik Nagula, State President of the Telangana Junior Doctors Association (JUDA).
"Colleges end up overselling the number of seats. But they do not have the resources, the infrastructure or the professors to sustain those seats. For clinical courses especially, they need to maintain a certain patient profile, which some colleges fail to do. And that's why there is discordance in the matrix. In most cases, this is limited to private and deemed medical universities," explains Dr Aviral Mathur, Senior Resident, Lok Nayak Hospital, Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC), in Delhi and President of Federation of Resident Doctors' Association (FORDA).
How does last moment cancellation of seats trouble students?
The cancellation of seats in medical colleges at the last minute has created trouble for students in the past as well.
Consider the case of colleges under the Kaloji Narayana Rao University of Health Sciences (KNRUHS) in Telangana. In May 2022, the Medical Assessment and Rating Board of the NMC cancelled more than 520 admissions to undergraduate and postgraduate medical courses in three private colleges due to deficiencies in the infrastructure in these colleges, after the seats had been allotted to the students post the 2021 counselling. It was the Telangana High Court that came to the rescue of these students, directing the NMC to reallocate the students to other medical colleges in the state.
Similarly, career consultant and NEET PG advisor Aman Singh says that registrations of MD/MS seats in three medical colleges in Rajasthan were also cancelled because the colleges were found lacking in facilities.
On the other hand, despite the lack of seats, it would be detrimental to the interests of the students if they were to study in institutions that do not match up to certain standards. "Frankly, there is no value in such an MD. Quality should be maintained. Ultimately these are the doctors who are going to provide professional medical care to thousands in the country and their education and training have to be of top-notch quality," Dr Mathur adds. And as the number of applicants increases per year, it is the responsibility of the government to increase seats in a proportionate manner.
With the seat matrix still undecided, it is the students who fall somewhere in the middle of the rank list that are affected adversely. "In any competitive exam, the middle-rankers form a major chunk of the aspirants. And such uncertainty will impact their ability to make decisions regarding their careers, with the NEET PG 2023 exam just a few months away now," Dr Mathur reflects.
"Students deserve to know..."
The buck in this issue seems to stop with the NMC. "In education, any change in policy should be made known to the students at least 10 to 12 months in advance. NMC should start the approval process well in advance and should not add seats at the last minute, at any cost. Even if colleges go to court, any newly cleared seats should be included only in the next academic year," Gandhi insists, adding, "The seat matrix must be finalised and released around the time the students sit to write the NEET PG exam. The students deserve to know how many seats will be available, and therefore, there is an urgent need for change in regulations. Right now, there is absolutely no awareness."
Impact on reserved and unreserved categories
One of the other bones that a few students have to pick with the authorities is the reservation allotted to different categories in the counselling. "The number of seats has been reduced already. And in this scenario with almost 70% of seats falling under reserved categories, there is barely anything left for the unreserved categories. I believe there should be no demarcation in NEET PG since all candidates pass out through the same MBBS course. And so nobody is at a disadvantage there and any past disadvantages should not count either. The system is, in a way, silently saying that the MBBS degree is useless," remarks Dr Mathur.
However, the overall dearth of seats is felt all across the board, observes Gandhi. "When seats are reduced, it impacts students from reserved categories as well. They are at a crossroads and need to figure out whether to sit for the exam next year or continue with whatever course they can land," he says.
The other side
Medical counsellor Gaurav Tyagi points out another side to the story, "The seat allocation is done through the roster system, which tries to give more chances to the SC, ST and OBC categories. There is nothing new in this. Students will have to be mentally prepared for all scenarios."
The problem, according to Tyagi, may not lie with the reservation system, but with the government for failing to meet the demand created by the students and its failure to improve infrastructure in medical colleges. "In fact, colleges might arrange all infrastructure, but in many cases, they cannot find lecturers, because the meagre salary offered to them discourages doctors from opting for that career," Tyagi states and insists that medical colleges have to maintain stability and decorum.
NExT in line
The NMC Bill of 2019 proposes to merge the NEET PG and the Foreign Medical Graduates Examination into the National Exit Test (NExT). After much uncertainty, the NMC has stated that it will not be implementing the exam from the proposed academic year of 2023. NExT, nevertheless, is definitely still in the works.
Dr Nagula states that the NMC should ensure that guidelines are maintained for the exam's question paper and that the counselling happens on time. Gandhi, on the other hand, beseeches the MCC to spell out all regulations at least a year in advance.
Tyagi points out that there is a need for change in the curriculum. "From what I gather, the NExT exam is going to be based on practical knowledge. Students from a few private and government colleges that do not have the right infrastructure in place might not be able to clear this exam. They should be trained right from the third or fourth year of MBBS," he suggests.
What should students do?
Now, what of the conundrum faced by students currently filling their choices out for the NEET PG 2022 counselling? While times are rife with uncertainty, Gandhi states that practical experience lies at the crux of NEET PG. "The gap between this counselling and the 2023 exam isn't that long. Many more colleges are opening up. In medicine, as long as you are practising, you will learn. So, do not get disappointed and do not give up," he maintains.
Edexlive has reached out to the NMC for a comment on the issue, and this article will be updated if and when we receive a response.