National Eligibility cum Entrance Test Undergraduate (NEET UG) candidates who had previously selected centres in India and paid fees without the option for foreign centers will now have the opportunity to amend their center and country choices during the NEET UG 2024 application correction process. Photo for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: Three centres have been allotted for the Indian expat students to write the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) medical entrance exam in the UAE this year, the Indian Consulate in Dubai told Gulf News on Wednesday.

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NEET is the sole entrance exam for undergraduate medical courses in India, conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) under India’s Ministry of Education.

The consulate said NTA has now expanded the list of examination cities for the international students by adding 14 foreign cities.

“As per the new circular issued by NTA, there are three centres allotted to the UAE. They are in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. The details of these centres would be announced in due course,” a spokesperson of the mission said.

More than a thousand expat students in the UAE are expected to take the NEET exam in May.

Concerns raised

NTA’s move to add foreign centres follows concerns raised by medical aspirants from abroad including Indian expat students in the UAE.

Students and schools had raised concerns about its earlier decision not to have overseas centres for 2024 NEET exam, citing added stress, expenses and inconvenience.

The closure of international test centres, which came to light earlier this month, had caught many expat families off guard, leaving them scrambling to adjust their plans, pointed out Dr Thakur S Mulchandani, school director and principal of Sunrise English Private School, Abu Dhabi.

“The common problems faced were for parents who have other children with ongoing schooling commitments, the logistics of managing travel arrangements while ensuring the welfare of their other children, also the financial burden of travel expenses and accommodation further compounded the stress for families.”

Welcome move

He welcomed the decision to include overseas centres like in the past few years. “It will be a big relief for the students and families.”

Welcoming the news, Pramod Mahajan, director and principal of Sharjah Indian School, said: “This is great news. Students and parents are going to be very happy. We had raised their concerns by giving a representation to the Indian education minister through the Indian Association Sharjah. Our delegation had visited Delhi for this. We are happy that the students’ concerns have been addressed.”

How to change centres

According to the testing agency, candidates who have already submitted their NEET UG 2024 application forms will have the opportunity to modify their exam centres during the application correction window.

NTA also announced how overseas students can choose centres in foreign cities.

“Candidates who have already selected centers in India and paid the fee without the option for foreign centers will now have the opportunity to correct their centre and country choice during the correction window. This window will open after the registration window closes. Candidates in foreign countries wishing to change their centres to foreign cities can make corrections during this period,” the circular stated.

Candidates can register from the NEET registration 2024 official website till March 9.

However, changes in centre preferences may incur additional fees as the agency said the candidates “will be required to pay the differential amount.”

For candidates making fresh registrations from foreign countries, the agency said: “Candidates registering afresh from foreign countries can select their preferred country and city directly from the drop-down menu during the application process. They should pay the requisite fee and submit their application.”

How it began

It was in 2021 that the Indian ministry first allowed a NEET centre in the UAE. This followed petitions from Indian expat students who could not fly home due to the travel restrictions amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following requests from students and parents, the Indian Consulate in Dubai had also appealed to the Indian government to allow for a NEET centre to be set up in the UAE. Since 2021, the number of NEET centres allotted to the UAE had increased over the years.