Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Corruption in India

India’s private medical colleges and capitation fees

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 21 January 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h106
  1. Jeetha D’Silva, journalist, Mumbai
  1. j.dsilva{at}

Demand for seats has led to a boom in the number of private medical colleges in India. But what can be done about the outlawed but seemingly common huge fees that some students pay for admission? Jeetha D’Silva reports

Students who aspire to study medicine in India are up against many obstacles, including intense competition, multiple rounds of entrance exams, quotas of seats in government colleges reserved for under-represented groups, and, in many cases, a high price tag.

Private colleges may ask for one-off “capitation fees,” separate from fees for tuition and maintenance. Often paid by parents, these effectively compulsory donations are illegal and may exceed Rs10m (£100 000; €130 000; $150 000).1 2

A recent report from the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy ranked the education sector second in a list of generators of “black money” in India. It estimated that capitation fees paid to professional colleges last year totalled Rs60bn.3

Nightmare for students

One undergraduate student, who asked to remain anonymous, told me that getting into medical college had been “a nightmare.” She had signed up for special coaching to prepare for premedical exams and had taken 12 entrance tests. Ultimately, although she scored 96% in the state level board examination and did well in all the entrance tests, she did not qualify for admission to any of the top government colleges and had to settle for a college far from her home city of Mumbai. She did not pay capitation. “It is almost impossible to get into government colleges. And it is difficult to get a seat in many private colleges without paying huge sums of money,” she said.

Other students shared similar stories, but one said that although some students pay for their places at the undergraduate level, many can secure admission on merit, even at private medical …

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