Indian parents in the UAE were relieved as the National Testing Agency (NTA) of India announced the inclusion of several foreign testing centres for its medical exam, including Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah.

In a tweet on Tuesday, the NTA revealed that the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test for Undergraduates (NEET-UG) 2024 would take place in 14 international centres.

In a notice dated February 20, the NTA wrote, “In continuation of the public notice dated February 9 2024, it has been decided that the exam will be conducted in foreign cities.” Testing centres in other cities worldwide will include Lagos, Singapore and Bangkok.

Most parents reacted with relief and joy. “I have no words to express my happiness,” said Sherin Shafeeq, whose daughter has been preparing for the exam for over two years. “I have been praying fervently for a resolution of the issue since the first notice came out.”

Sherin said she was hopeful and had yet to fill out the form for a centre in India. “My daughter’s coaching centre had asked us to hold off filling in the application form until as late as possible to see if there was any chance of foreign centres to be announced,” she said. “I am truly grateful to everyone who took the initiative to get the international centres for the NEET exams.”

Last week, Khaleej Times reported that no foreign centres were listed in the initial document released by NTA. Speaking to KT, parents voiced their concern about removing centres, saying how it severely affected their plans.

Many parents feared that travelling to India for the test might impact their children's performance, and accompanying guardians would have to take time off work, manage other kids staying back in the UAE, and expensive air tickets might add to their monthly budget.

In 2021, India first opened international centres for the NEET-UG exams — a prerequisite for all students aspiring to study medicine in India and some international countries. The move came after thousands of students could not travel to India during the Covid-19 pandemic. It relieved parents who had been petitioning for centres outside India for years. However, no international centres were listed in the initial document this year, but the number of centres in India increased.

Now, almost two weeks after its first announcement, the NTA has announced the decision to conduct the entrance exam in several cities worldwide.

According to the NTA notice, any student who has already selected centres in India and paid the fee without the option for foreign centres will have the opportunity to correct their centre and country choice during a correction window. This window will open after the registration window closes.

Alka Malik, Founder and Managing Director of coaching centre Ascentria, said they were overjoyed with the move. “It’s so wonderful that they have considered the situation of NRI students,” she said. “Some parents who have already registered are concerned about missing the correction window, but we are making sure to keep track of it and inform parents when the window opens.”

The NTA as an independent, autonomous and self-sustained organisation that was set up by India’s Ministry of Education to conduct the NEET-UG and other such competitive exams last year.

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