MMC’s derecognition of Ukraine’s Crimea State Medical University (CSMU) medical degree should be suspended to allow CSMU “grace period” to comply with MMC’s requirements

- when introducing the emergency motion calling for suspension of MMC’s derecognition of
Ukraine’s Crimea State Medical University (CSMU) medical degree in the Dewan Rakyat

by Lim Kit Siang

(Parliament, Tuesday): I have just returned from the Ukraine Embassy where together with the DAP MP for Ipoh Barat, M. Kulasegaran, DAP MP for Bukit Mertajam Chong Eng and DAP MP for Batu Gajah Fong Po Kuan, we met the Ukraine Ambassador Oleksandr D. Shevchenko and Counsellor Olexander Nechytaylo to get more facts about why the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) had withdrawn recognition for Ukraine’s Crimea State Medical University (CSMU) medical degree.

The Ukraine Embassy however is as much in the dark as the 1,100 Malaysian students pursuing the medical course in CSMU, their parents and the CSMU at the completely unexpected announcement by the MMC withdrawing recognition for the CSMU medical degrees after according recognition four years ago in 2001.

Clearly, the Ukraine Ambassador has not yet recovered from his shock over the MMC announcement.  He told us that the Ukraine Embassy was established last year after the state visit of the former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to Ukraine in August 2003 where the Prime Minister, who was accompanied by the then Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad, met with Malaysian students doing medicine at the CSMU.

Ambassador Oleksandr said that one of his priorities as Ukraine Ambassador since his posting  to Malaysia last year was to secure Malaysian government recognition for the medical degrees of another 10 of 27 medical universities in Ukraine, namely Lviv National Medical University, Ivano-Frankivsk State Medical University, Ternopil State Medical Academy, Dnipropetrovsk State Medical Academy, Sumy State University, Kharkiv State Medical University, Donetsk State Medical University, Zaporizhya State Medical University, Lugansk State Medical University and Odessa State Medical University.

He was given the distinct understanding that there would be positive responses to the application for recognition by the ten other Ukraine medical universities in his meetings and discussions with the former Director-General of health, Tan Sri Dr. Mohd Taha Arif in June last year and even the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Higher Education,  Datuk Dr. Adham Baba, who visited in November last year.

At no time was the Ambassador given an inkling that the MMC would not only reject recognition for the medical degrees of other ten Ukraine medical universities, but that there was any problem with the recognition since 2001 of the CSMU medical degree.

It therefore came as a great shock to the Ukraine Ambassador that instead of the MMC announcing recognition for some of the 10 other Ukraine’s medical universities, the MMC not only announced that the Government would not recognize the medical programmes offered by all the other 10 universities in Ukraine, but proceeded to derecognized the CSMU medical degree!

Concerned parents, particularly those with children preparing for CSMU medical studies who phoned the MMC asking for clarification and advice, were informed that the MMC is about to recognize the medical degrees of five universities in Indonesia as well as in Egypt, and that they should sent their children to these countries.

Are the standards of the medical courses in Indonesia and Egypt higher than in CSMU and other Ukraine medical universities?  The MMC owes a full explanation to Malaysians, not just to the thousands of students affected or will be affected by the latest MMC decision.

I understand that the CSMU and other Ukrainian medical degrees are held in high regard in Egypt and the Middle East, and if this is the case, the MMC decision cannot have any credibility whatsoever.  I am no advocate nor defender for CSMU, but only want to see that justice and fairness.   I am told that there are many Cubans doing medicine in Ukraine, and as Cuba is internationally  well known as one of the countries with the best health care services.  Ukraine is joining the European Union in 2008, which will further expand the recognition of Ukranian medical degrees Europe-wide.  I would regard these matters as  favourable testimony for the Ukrainian medical standards – as compared to Indonesia and Egypt for instance.

The MMC decision to withdraw recognition of CSMU medical degree raises many questions, including:

1. Why was the CSMU not given a grace period of time to comply with the requirements of the MMC with withdrawal of recognition.  The MMC visited CSMU in mid-2003 but it had never informed CSMU about its dissatisfactions.

2. Dr. Ismail said  CSMU “lowered its entry standards to such an extent that it was accepting arts stream dropouts and academically poor science stream students".

This is most inexplicable as since 2003, CSMU had only accepted medical students who had the “No Objection Letter” from the Higher Education Ministry, which required the minimum requirement of three principal Cs in the STPM or equivalent or a Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 3 for medicine and dentistry courses.

CSMU has said that it had strictly complied with the  Cabinet decision in August 2003 on the “No Objection Letter” on the standards set for Malaysian students to pursue medical study.

I understand that in most cases, Malaysian students in CSMU are high-achievers who have achieved more than the required CGPA 3.0 before a “Non Objection Letter” would be released by the Higher Education Ministry.

Has the MMC evidence that CSMU had breached the “No Objection Letter” requirement?

Unless the  CSMU medical standards are irredeemably low, in which case it should never have been given recognition in 2001 in the first place, it is only fair and right that CSMU should be given a grace period to comply with whatever shortcomings found  by the MMC, and not for derecognition to be announced so arbitrarily, summarily and absolutely – especially in view of the fact that it provides the cheapest medical education to the largest number of Malaysian students in any one place.

MMC cannot be faulted in refusing to compromise with patient safety or wanting to ensure that Malaysian students in medical courses, whether locally or abroad, are trained to become quality doctors when they graduate and not be shortchanged, but the MMC must act with fairness, transparency and flexibility, or it has only itself to blame if it is accused of ulterior motives like the serious allegation by the MIC President Datuk Seri Samy Vellu that the MMC just wanted to stop Indians from becoming doctors.

I fully back the Works Minister who lambasted the MMC  for the high-handed, arbitrary  and insensitive derecognition of the medical degree of Crimea State Medical University and I hope that MCA, Gerakan and UMNO Ministers and MPs would take a common stand in  Cabinet and  Parliament  for the suspension of MMC’s derecognition to give  CSMU the grace period to comply with MMC’s requirements so that deserving Malaysian students, including high-achievers, are not subject to double discrimination and denied opportunities of medical education abroad.

CSMU has become the single biggest university, whether in Malaysia or in the world, with the highest concentration of Malaysian students pursuing medical studies, with   some 1,100 Malaysian students pursuing the medical degree. 

This has come about because CSMU offers the cheapest medical course for Malaysians which is recognized by the government, including local medical faculties or colleges.

It is estimated that it will cost some RM400,000 to pursue a medical degree in Australia, RM500,000 in Canada, RM630,000 in the United Kingdom and RM700,000 in the United States.   It will cost some RM250,000 to pursue medical studies locally in the private institutions of higher learning while the cost of a medical course at the CMSU is RM100,000.

The MMC has acted most irresponsibly in failing to take these important considerations into account when deciding  on the derecognition of the CMSU medical degree.

Malaysians fully agree with the MMC President Datuk Dr. Ismail Marican that the MMC, as the custodian of the medical profession in Malaysia, should not compromise on patient safety.

MMC cannot be faulted in wanting to ensure that Malaysian students in medical courses, whether locally or abroad, are trained to become quality doctors when they graduate and not be shortchanged, but the MMC must demonstrate that it is  fully sensitive to  the vast ramifications of its responsibilities and the need to act with fairness, transparency and flexibility, or it has only itself to blame if it is accused of ulterior motives like the serious allegation by Samy Vellu that the MMC just wanted to stop Indians from becoming doctors.

There are three  other facts about the Crimea State Medical University that must be borne in mind:

  • Firstly, CSMU is not just a faculty of medicine but a full medical University, which is registered with the World Health Organisation, with foreign students from about 38 countries.  It is ranked No. 2 out of 27 medical universities in Ukraine, with more than 40 years of teaching experience and graduating more than 25,000 doctors.  It has 68 departments or faculties and more than 600 professors and 12 hospitals with 8,000 beds.
  • Secondly, out of the some 1,100 Malaysian students in the CSMU. I had said this morning that the racial breakdown is about 300 Malays, 240 Chinese, 470 Indians and 25 others but I have received latest information which appears to be  220 Chinese, 231 Malays, 581 Indians and 25 others.
  • Thirdly, students have been sent to CSMU  from government and other agencies, such as Angkatan Tentera Malaysia, MARA, Yayasan Selangor, Yayasan Terengganu, MIED, KOJADI, various banks, etc.

MMC should immediately suspend its decision on derecognition of the CSMU medical degrees, make public the shortcomings of the CSMU medical programme and give the CSMU a grace period to comply with them before a final decision on derecognition is made.




*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman