Education and Further Studies Fair

The above fair was held over the weekend at the Mid Valley Exhibition Center and I had the pleasure of attending it. It was certainly an eye opening affair and just confirmed the nation obsession of their children graduating with a Medical Degree. The reason I attended it was because my friend Ramesh was invited to be a guest speaker for the segment on career in digital media. The exhibition occupied a couple of halls at the huge venue and I must say 70% of the exhibit were all things healthcare - both Medical and Nursing, with a smaller segment on hospitality and engineering courses. I remember attending a similar fair around 20 years back, and 70% of the exhibit was on computer courses. Things had certainly came full circle.

I was in T-shirts and unshaven, and a few of the exhibitors asked me if I was interested in signing up for courses as they were doing “discounts” for those attending the fair.

Let me start with the obvious one. It was a private exhibition, and the booths were mainly by private colleges and universities. Some actually offer their own degree while others via a twinning initiatives. Certainly, the machinery was on hyperdrive in justifying the cost of doing the degree locally rather than going abroad. None of the public colleges were featured. All together, there were at least 50 participants. The usual suspects were there - IMU, Monash, Masterskills, Segi and Mahsa. I knew these centers, so I did not spend much time there. Instead, I spent a good hour chatting around with the ‘agencies’. These are local company, specialising in facilitating students finding places at Medical School abroad, mainly in the cheap. Cheap as in, in Indonesia, Russia and Ukraine. There were a few in India as well, but according to them, the Indian colleges have prefer to send their own representatives to Malaysia, and handle the enrollment and acceptance process in house. The pricing were certainly an eye opener. The Royal Perak College of Medicine (under Universiti Kuala Lumpur, which was in turn under MARA), offer the full Medical Degree - previously as MBBS(Mal) for over RM200K. These colleges in Russia would only set you back RM150K.

Check out the prices on offerThis certainly created a lot of excitement, not to mention the looser admission criteria. During my conversation with one of the agent, I spent 60% of the conversation about justifying that the degree will be ‘legal’. I was more interested in the admission criteria, ratio of staff to students, the medium - not all of these were in English, whether the clinical years include interaction with human beings.He then got suspicious and I had to come clean that I was an academician. He then asked for a more senior agent to deal with me. Off the record, the textbook will be in Russian, so you can guess what the medium will be in. The students will be required to do a ‘foundation’ year - in Russia, in order to familiarise themselves with the language. As far as the agent can tell, a credit in the Science subjects at SPM was enough for consideration! I think I shall keep the rest of the conversation off the record as clearly the agent was not comfortable discussing these matters with me.

An example of such 'agency'. This was not the one I talked to.On the subject of what will happen once they graduate, he was a bit more certain. He claimed that currently the degrees were accepted locally by the Malaysian Medical Council. He however conceded that the Ministry has the habit of moving the goalposts, and there will always be a small possibility that the students upon return might need further scrutiny. At the moment, these student were required to sit for the final year exams at a local university - we had a group of about 30 who took the final year exams with us on the last seating at UM. Of these, there were a few very good students, while some, especially from China was not as good. They were allowed to spend a six months period at the university for clinical attachment - at a cost. Some of the student were these degrees were exempted - we have currently a few of these at UMMC.

My advice to those interested in considering these colleges, please check the credentials with the MMC. I tried looking up at their website but I could not find such list. Maybe a quick phone call should do the trick. There were a few good Medical Schools in Russia, but I prefer not to mention them for fear of endorsement. The clue would be in the admission requirements. The easier it was to get in, the more suspect you should be. Good Luck!