Over the last 5 years, I had written many times regarding degree recognition, quality of medical educations and pathways to specialisation. Unfortunately, I get asked these questions again and again from budding doctors as well as parents. Sometimes, I wonder whether our society even reads or does any research before asking these questions. Sometimes I do get irritated and thus some sarcastic remarks had to be made! I felt I should write these issues once again for the last time!
As I have said many times before, medicine is rather unique in the sense that just because you have a MBBS/MD degree, it does NOT mean you can work anywhere in this world. Every country has their own way of recognising medical degrees. IF your degree is NOT recognised by the medical council of the respective country, you will NOT be able to work in that particular country, as a doctor. You need to sit and pass their entrance exam conducted by their medical council in order to be eligible to be registered. However, eligibility of registration is NOT equal to getting an employment. Also please do not forget that these entrance exams are NOT cheap and not easy either. Despite spending huge amount of money, you may end up going nowhere. That’s the reason I keep saying that if you intend to migrate, never do medicine!
UK has the PLAB exams for those who graduate from any university outside UK, Australia has AMC exams and US has USMLE exams (which all their graduates need to sit). Unfortunately, to get a job in UK is becoming almost impossible due to their immigration laws where their citizens and EU citizens are given priority. You will be at the bottom of the list. Even if you do your degree in Newcastle Malaysia, the same rule applies except the fact you do not need to sit for PLAB exams. If you do not get internship in UK, you will not get GMC registration. FYI, UK is having the same problem as Australia in the number of internship post. Both these countries are only able to provide internship to those who graduated from their own local universities. I know quite a number of Malaysians who had passed AMC exams but yet to get a placement in Australia. In US, the situation does not look that rosy either. A recent report suggest that for the first time, there are more applicants than post for residency training. Thus, even their own graduates are unable to get residency post of their choice and need to wait for next year’s intake. Your chances may be better if you choose the non-popular residency post. Meanwhile, Ireland Medical Council has now recognised housemanship training in Malaysia. You are eligible for general registration after housemanship completion in Malaysia without the need to sit for PRES examination. However, I am not sure whether your undergraduate degree have any role to play. Unfortunately, Ireland is not the best place to work currently due to their economic situation. As for Malaysian degrees, only UM/UKM is recognised in Singapore and Monash in Australia/NZ.
The situation in Malaysia is not that great either. I first started to write about possible over-supply of doctors almost 10 years ago when they started to approve too many medical schools (33 in total with 36 medical programs at least). Many were in denial including our politicians, MOH and MMA. I was labelled with all kind of nasty name calling. Fortunately, as I predicted the problem has now surfaced publicly. In 2011, after much denial, the government issued a moratorium for new medical schools. At the same time, MMC came up with the Minimum Entry Criteria. While I disagree that SPM should be used as the main criteria, MMC had no choice as in the name of education hub, we have just too many Pre-U courses conducted by various colleges. I still feel that MMC should only allow medical school entry based on well established Pre-U courses like STPM, Matriculation, A -level, IB etc. I strongly do not agree that Foundation courses should be used as the Pre-U entry course. It is not a standardised exam as it is conducted and marked by the respective colleges. I have heard enough stories!
MMC has also made it very clear that those who go to unrecognised medical colleges overseas without minimum entry qualifications will NOT be able to sit for MQE exams. So, for those who are doing medicine in unrecognised universities without minimum qualifications, please look at other options. Please be also warned that MQA accreditation is NOT the same as MMC accreditation. For medicine, only MMC accreditation matters. 2 years ago, I remember of students being offered scholarship to do medicine in CUBA. This is despite the fact that none of the degree from Cuba is recognised by MMC but many were not aware. Recently, it appeared in the news. Students who had graduated and returned to the country last month are now required to sit and pass the MQE examinations. IN response, MMC said that they are reviewing ALL recognised medical schools and may reduce the numbers further (see below).
With the mushrooming of medical schools (the highest per capita population in the world), quality became an issue. Recently, MMA president claimed that close to 20% of medical graduates do not have enough qualifications to do medicine. He was referring to many graduates from overseas universities especially from Russia, Indonesia, Egypt etc. I had written about this before especially over HERE. However, local university graduates are not that great either. Many of the medical schools do not have enough academics and dependent on foreigners from Myanmar, India etc. I am not saying that they are not good but the health care system in those countries are different from ours. The very fact that we are dependent on foreign academics tells us that we are NOT ready to have so many medical schools, in the first place. Despite low number of academics, the medical school need to take at least 100-150 students to make profit and get their return of investment. That was the reason why MMC came up with the criteria, as many of them were taking students with low quality by using their own foundation programs. The quality of training after graduation is another issue all together which I had written many times before. The shift system with poor supervision has made it go from bad to worst! We are going to be seeing a lot of THIS type of stories soon!
With the introduction of the minimum criteria, many private medical colleges started to find it difficult to recruit enough students since 2011. This is causing financial problems for some medical colleges. JPA has also stopped sponsoring students for medicine over the last 2 years. First they stopped sponsoring students overseas except for the top 50 students or so. Recently, I heard, JPA has also stopped sending students for medicine to some if not all the private medical schools. Even for public universities, JPA is no more a guaranteed scholarship. I was informed that as of last year, there are NO MORE JPA sponsored students in PMC. This has reduced their intake for this year to only 65 students! This has also prompted the university to reduce their entry requirement (ATAR 80 for 6 years program), including taking UEC students and recruiting foreign students from middle east countries. If not, they will not be able to survive. Ironically, MARA is still sponsoring students for medical studies both locally and overseas! So far, I have not heard of any instruction from MOE to reduce the intake of medical students into private medical schools. However, I feel some of these schools may undergo a slow death like what is happening to THIS college. I heard this college is working out some agreement with CUCMS. However, I find it interesting that based on the latest MMC LIST, CUCMS only recognised till 12/2012? . It is rather confusing.
MOH is also finding it difficult to accommodate housemanship posting for graduates. I heard local public university graduates had to wait close to 3 months for appointments (use to be only 1 month). Private universities seem to be taking longer. I heard some PMC students who graduated in May 2014 with interview conducted in the university itself , are yet to be posted for housemanship. Some are getting the posting for October intake and some may still need to wait longer. So, the waiting list is getting longer. I heard some MARA sponsored students have applied for housemanship in Ireland and manage to get it. Remember, 50% of the 33 medical schools will only start to produce their graduates starting from this year till 2016. So, what the situation will be like, by 2016?
I have a feeling that MMC/MOH may not have any choice but to introduce some sort of entry or exit exams. Even the MO post are becoming full and many are being posted to East Malaysia. Klinik Kesihatans are being filled to the brink with some small KKs in a rural districts have close to 9-10 MOs now!
Finally, if your degree is NOT recognised in another country, you will not be able to do your postgraduate degree/specialist training overseas. This is because, you will not be able to get a job. Specialist training in medicine is FULL TIME working and PART TIME studying. I get asked this question repeatedly! However, you can go for a short attachment on temporary registration, for training purposes. Generally, no salary will be paid for such attachments. If you have MRCP/MRCS/MRCOG etc, you may be able to get a job in Singapore as a MO/registra.
MMC to review all foreign medical schools
Posted on 17 September 2014 – 09:32pm
PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) is reviewing the accreditation of all foreign medical schools with a view to reducing the number of such recognised overseas institutions.
Director-General of Health Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, who is also MMC chairman, said the council is not recognising more foreign medical schools.
“We are cutting the number of recognised universities abroad,” he said when asked to comment on theSun’s page one report today highlighting the plight of medical graduates from a Cuban scholarship programme whose degrees have not been recognised.
“Many universities, including from Australia, have applied for recognition but we are not considering at the moment,” he told theSun today.
According to the MMC website, aside from 29 Malaysian medical schools which are accredited, MMC has recognised medical degrees from 375 overseas medical schools in 34 countries, including Myanmar, Czech Republic, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Russia and Ukraine.
While he declined comment as to why MMC had yet to respond to Cuba’s application for recognition for its medical programmes since 2007, Noor Hisham said medical graduates from Cuba will have to sit for the Medical Qualifying Examination (MQE).
Four students from the first batch of Malaysians sent there in 2007 under a Cuban scholarship programme who returned here on Sept 4, have been told to enrol for a six-month course which costs RM25,000 in a local universities, prior to sitting for the MQE.
However, there is no guarantee that the local universities will accept these students for the programme, without which they cannot sit for MQE.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said the ministry has also frozen all new applications to set up private medical colleges in the country as there are many recognised medical colleges for Malaysians.
An MMC source said it had stopped accepting new applications for medical universities since the beginning of 2013.
As to the recognition of Cuban medical degrees in Malaysia, Subramaniam said if there is an update, the ministry would notify the Cuban embassy.