The National Medical Commission (NMC) has disregarded multiple directives from the health ministry, refusing to permit medical colleges to employ faculty holding MSc or PhD degrees in non-clinical subjects, a practice allowed by regulations in effect before 2020.
Amidst a severe faculty shortage triggered by the sudden proliferation of medical colleges, the NMC’s new regulation on minimum requirements for medical colleges has adhered to reducing the maximum allowable percentage of faculty with MSc or Ph.D. degrees to 15% in anatomy, biochemistry, and physiology.
It has even gone so far as to eliminate this allowance in microbiology and pharmacology, defying the ministry’s instructions. Despite the fact that the medical MSc degree was incorporated into the Indian Medical Council Act’s first schedule back in 1956 and non-doctors were granted access to medical MSc courses in the 1960s to address faculty shortages at that time, the NMC’s seemingly arbitrary decision has plunged these educators into an uncertain future, belittling their qualifications.
On June 22 of this year, the ministry directed the NMC to temporarily greenlight the appointment of non-medical faculty members possessing MSc qualifications, in line with the Medical Council of India’s 1998 regulations regarding teacher qualifications.
The ministry urged the NMC to amend the 2020 regulation concerning minimum standards for establishing medical colleges, as well as the Teachers Eligibility Qualifications in Medical Institutions Regulations of 2022, and to submit proof of compliance within a month.
However, the National Medical Commission’s Guidelines for the Establishment of New Medical Colleges and Seat Expansion in MBBS Courses, 2023, which were announced on August 18, appear to have completely disregarded these ministry directives.
The non-clinical disciplines impacted include anatomy, physiology, microbiology, pharmacology, and biochemistry. Before the NMC’s takeover on September 25, 2020, regulations stipulated that 30% of faculty members (50% in the case of biochemistry) could hold an MSc and/or PhD from a medical college in any of these subjects.
In October 2020, the NMC issued regulations outlining minimum standards required for the establishment of medical colleges, effectively reducing the allocation of posts in these departments for such faculty members.
On August 11, the health ministry informed Parliament of an 82% surge in medical colleges and a 110% increase in MBBS seats over the past decade. Despite a concurrent increase of 117% in postgraduate seats, numerous postgraduate positions in these non-clinical fields remain vacant across India, primarily because most MBBS graduates aspire to practice clinical medicine.
This is occurring despite the fact that many private colleges offer these courses for nominal or significantly reduced fees. Consequently, the dearth of faculty is likely to persist.
A faculty member holding a Ph.D. raised the question, “Given the shortage of practicing doctors in the country, why is the NMC advocating for more non-clinical doctors when there exists a provision for faculty with Medical MSc and Ph.D. qualifications in medical colleges?”