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Thursday June 20, 2024

Private medical institutions collecting billions of rupees from students

It is estimated that private medical institutions have collected around Rs75 to 80 billion rupees annually from students since 2019

By M. Waqar Bhatti
May 06, 2024
A person can be seen holding notes of Pakistani currency Rupee in the hands. — AFP/File
A person can be seen holding notes of Pakistani currency Rupee in the hands. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: At least Rs75 to 80 billion are annually being collected by 118 private medical and dental colleges from their students since 2019 in Pakistan, as Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) and Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) laws allowed private medical institutions to set their fees independently, officials and experts revealed on Sunday.

“As many as 50,000 to 55,000 students are receiving education annually in 118 private medical and dental colleges across the country. Some of these medical colleges charge tuition fees ranging from Rs1.2 million to Rs1.3 million per year, while top-tier colleges are charging up to Rs3.5 million per annum from their students.

It is estimated that private medical institutions have collected around Rs75 to 80 billion rupees annually from students since 2019,” an official of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations, and Coordination (NHS,R&C) told The News.

According to PMDC records, Pakistan has approximately 184 public and private medical and dental colleges, with 118 in the private sector. Around 22,000 students were granted admissions this year at those colleges, while an estimated 5,000 students pursued medical education abroad, mainly in Central Asian countries.

The NHS official claimed PMDC as the medical and dental education regulator has no control over the tuition fee structure of private medical institutions, as the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) Act 2022 grants complete autonomy to private medical and dental colleges to determine and collect tuition fees at their own.

Under the PMDC Act 2022, passed by the PDM government in January 2022, all medical and dental colleges are only required to publicly declare fixed tuition fees three months before the admission process for the entire program.

“Consequently, private medical colleges increase their fee structures annually, as they are only obligated to inform PMDC of their fees for the next five years,” the NHS official claimed.

The NHS official, who requested anonymity, criticized the PDM government for passing a law that heavily favored private medical institutions, providing them with legal cover to exploit medical students.

“Former caretaker health minister Dr Nadeem Jan attempted to intervene and resolve the issue, but was informed by the PMDC legal team that they could not regulate the tuition fees of private medical colleges due to provisions of the PMDC Act 2022,” the official claimed.

Currently, students of private medical and dental colleges are protesting across the country against the hike in tuition fees by college managements. This has prompted PMDC to establish a ‘grievance committee,’ comprising two senior PMDC Council members, Dr Amjad Siraj Memon from Karachi and Dr Zubair from Peshawar, alongside two members from PAMI, to review the fee structures of private medical and dental colleges.

“Amid student and parental outcry over tuition fees, PMDC Council has formed a grievance committee tasked with submitting a report within two weeks. Unfortunately, the committee lacks clear authority to regulate fee structures as mandated by relevant laws. Nonetheless, efforts are underway to find a viable solution through consultations with all stakeholders, including private medical and dental college owners,” a PMDC spokesperson said.

On the other hand, the Pakistan Association of Medical Institutions (PAMI) stated that no parliamentary act gives authority to regulate fees for private medical and dental colleges in Pakistan, as this is solely at the discretion of the colleges.

“Private medical and dental education is not a right for every Pakistani citizen rather it is a luxury. Only those students who failed to secure admissions in public medical and dental colleges opt for private medical and dental education,” said Dr Riaz Janjua, Secretary-General of PAMI.

Dr Janjua argued that even public medical education costs around Rs4 million to Rs4.5 million annually, but provincial governments cover these expenses, offering highly subsidized medical education to students. He emphasized that arbitrary fee regulations could hinder the growth of private medical institutions.

“The cost of medical education is hefty, as no medical professor charges less than Rs450,000 per month. Private medical colleges incur annual expenses of Rs60 million to Rs65 million in faculty and staff salaries.

Colleges have indicated that if they are hindered from setting their fees, they will relinquish control to authorities and ask them to manage the colleges independently,” Dr Janjua added.

He warned that if any arbitrary decisions were made regarding fee structures at private medical and dental colleges, PAMI would seek legal recourse through the courts.