The Confucius Institute at the University of Canterbury aims to bring understanding and appreciation of Chinese culture and language to our local community - the South Island of New Zealand. We have a range of programmes designed to enhance cross-cultural understanding, which we offer both to students and to the general public.

2018 Application Form for Schools and Institutes


Mandarin Language Assistants (MLAs) are postgraduate students from China who come to New Zealand for 1 – 3 years to teach Chinese in New Zealand schools. This year, there are 40 Mandarin Language Assistants and three Mandarin teachers employed by the Confucius Institute at the University of Canterbury teaching Chinese. The MLAs typically live with school families and help students to increase their Mandarin language ability and run or teach cultural activities. The programme was signalled in the Free Trade Agreement signed between China and New Zealand in 2008.  The agreement allowed for teachers to come from China to help teach Mandarin in New Zealand.

In 2018, schools are asked to pay an administration fee of $500 per MLA which can be shared among schools hosting the MLA. Other costs are funded by the Confucius Institute Headquarters.

The role of MLAs

The role of an MLA is to teach Mandarin language effectively, provide information and insight into Chinese culture and language, model accurate pronunciation and intonation and assist the classroom teacher.

MLAs may contribute to the Chinese language programmes at participating schools by:

  • Teaching ‘taster’ classes designed to interest students in learning more about Chinese culture and language
  • Teaching regular Chinese language lessons at primary, intermediate or secondary level
  • Assisting with the preparation of Chinese learning resoures using authentic language
  • Assisting Chinese language teachers by providing opportunities for students to interact with a native speaker, stimulating genuine classroom communications
  • Assist teachers in the classroom and/or make small group work not only possible but more effective
  • Assist teachers to extend their own linguistic and cultural knowledge. This may include assisting a Chinese teacher in his/her language study.

Primary schools

Mandarin Language Assistants are available to teach at primary and intermediate schools. Usually, an MLA will teach classes introducing language and/or culture for 30 – 60 minutes once a week. Most MLAs teach a number of different classes at each school, and will often teach at two or more different schools.

Lessons are designed to be age-appropriate and fun. The hope is that children will develop an interest in learning about different cultures and languages.

Secondary schools

MLAs assist in different ways depending on the need of the school. In some schools, the MLA assists the Chinese teacher with lesson preparation and providing opportunities for students to speak with a native speaker. 

In other schools, MLAs teach Chinese independently, either as a subject or as an extra-curricular activity.

MLAs are also able to aid schools to develop a Chinese language programme by assisting current teachers with learning Chinese. CIUC is also able to provide textbooks and online resources to help teachers learn Chinese.

Martial arts and Tai Chi

CIUC has specially trained martial arts instructors. They are available to teach at schools. They can teach regular lessons, or do one-off cultural interactive demonstrations. They are also available to participate in cultural days.

Cultural days and festivals

Many of CIUC’s MLAs are able to demonstrate aspects of Chinese culture such as calligraphy, paper cutting and dance. We often visit schools to take part in cultural days or festivals. Schools usually contribute to the cost of materials.

Host school’s responsibilities 

China will fund the international travel costs and a living allowance for each MLA. In return, New Zealand is responsible for health insurance and homestay accommodation arrangements for the MLAs.

The schools should provide support for the MLA in her role teaching Chinese. Particularly, they should give her the opportunity to learn about teaching in New Zealand, including allowing her to observe classes. They should also provide feedback on her teaching. In order to facilitate this, we send an evaluation form to the schools each term and use comments given to improve our level of teaching.

Schools outside city bounds should provide transportation to and from schools. If transportation costs are greater than $25 per week, schools need to top up the difference. MLAs do not have access to cars, and generally do not drive.

We do expect lead schools to assist in finding homestay accommodation for the MLAs.

Administration fee

For schools with an MLA based at their school or cluster of schools full time, the administration fee is $500 per year per MLA. This can be divided among the cluster of schools. If a school does not have an MLA based at it full time, the administration fee for the whole year is $200 (the MLA teaches at the school for one day a week) or $400 (the MLA teaches at the school two days a week). The number of hours an MLA teaches a day does not affect the administration fee. If the MLA teaches at a school for three or more days a week, the administration fee is $500. The administration fee covers the cost of the MLAs insurance and our administration costs.

Contact us

For more information, or to request an application form, please contact: 

CIUC Administrator
Rosa-Jane Whitcombe 
Ph: 03 369 5194 or 027 552 5617

Programme Co-ordinator
Associate Professor Jing Jiang 
Ph: 369 5481

The Confucius Institute Headquarters (also known as Hanban) provide scholarships to students wishing to study in China. Because Huazhong University of Science and Technology partners with the University of Canterbury, many students from the South Island have studied there. For more information, refer to the links below or email

Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK)

HSK is a international standardised test that is used to assess the Chinese language proficiency of non-native speakers (this includes non-Chinese, overseas Chinese and Chinese national minorities).  The HSK is designed and organised by Hanban; it is held both in China and across the globe.

The HSK is designed to meet the need for a systematic measure of Chinese language proficiency that could be used throughout the world. There are three tests organised by Hanban: HSK, YCT and BCT.Youth Chinese Test (YCT) is for school age learners of Chinese and measures general Chinese. Business Chinese Test (BCT) is a standardized test designed to assess the Chinese proficiency of non-native speakers engaged in business activities. HSK tests the standard Chinese of adults. All information on HSK Tests and HSK Preparation Courses will be announced on this website.

Applications are open for the examinations in 2016. Details can be found on the information sheets below:

2018 Information Sheet (PDF, 261KB)
2018 Registration Form (Word, 169KB)

Contact Details

Dr Yan Zhou
Confucius Institute at the University of Canterbury
Room 208, Logie Building 
University of Canterbury 
Christchurch 8140, New Zealand 
Phone: 03 369 4399

The Calligraphy Competition

The Calligraphy Competition is open to all students of New Zealand schools and tertiary institutions. Both native and non-native speakers of Chinese are welcome to enter. Winning entries are collected into book published by CIUC.

The Chinese Bridge Competition

New Zealand finals are being held in Wellington in June. Congratulations to all the students who have made it through to this round, and special congratulations to Nathan Taylor who will represent the South Island at the International finals in China.


The Chinese Bridge Chinese Proficiency Competition is an annual international Chinese Mandarin speaking and performance competition. The competition is organised by the Office of the Chinese Language Council International (‘Hanban’), a department within the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The winners of the South Island Regional competition will join with other NZ finalists in Auckland to compete in the national finals and then in the international final competitions in Beijing, which will be broadcasted to tens of millions of viewers worldwide.

There are also many great prizes including language scholarships, travel opportunities to China, and consolation prizes.

New Zealand Principals' Delegation to China

Applications are now open for the 2018 South Island Principals' Delegation to China.

For further information, contact Associate Professor Jing Jiang at

Schools that are interested in Chinese related programmes are welcome to inquire about the wonderful opportunity to see China in person in 2018.

News about the 2017 Principals' Delegation to China

The NZ South Island Principals’ Delegation to China has completed its eleven days’ tour and returned to New Zealand on 13 April. The principals’ delegation consisted of principals and deputy principals from ten primary and secondary schools from around the South Island and the tour was organised by CIUC.

During their stay in China, the principals visited Beijing, Wuhan and Shanghai, experiencing the extensive Chinese history and culture, as well as the rapid development of Chinese economy.

The delegation explored some famous historical sites during the first three days in Beijing. For most of the principals, this was their first experience of China. They were deeply impressed by the scope and grandeur of the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. The delegation also visited New Zealand Embassy in Beijing and the Headquarters of the Confucius Institute, which was the sponsor for the delegation’s trip. The delegation expressed their sincere thanks to the Headquarters of the Confucius Institute as well as CIUC for organising this significant trip as well as offering support to their students at home for their study of the Chinese language and culture.

At the New Zealand Embassy in Beijing, the ambassador John McKinnon and his colleagues warmly welcomed the delegation. The ambassador and the principals exchanged their thoughts about the importance of New Zealand-China ties, and the Chinese programmes in the schools of the South Island. The ambassador said that for New Zealand students, learning Mandarin is an investment for the future, which will bring more job opportunities in times of need.

After a short stay in Beijing, the principals visited Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) and the primary school and middle school affiliated to HUST. The principals had the opportunity to talk face to face with students and staff in these schools and learned a significant amount about the Chinese fundamental education system. During the trip, members of the delegation were given the opportunity to appreciate not only China’s significant achievements but also the challenges that presently confront China, some of which are particularly relevant to education practitioners in New Zealand. 

After this China trip, all the principals said that China is very different from what they expected before they came and now they have a better understanding of China and Chinese people. Susan Jennison from Westburn School in Christchurch remarked, “Although I thought that the tour would be wonderful I had no idea how amazing it would be. China exceeded my expectations in every possible way.” All of the delegates agreed that the trip to China was truly memorable. They returned to New Zealand with a commitment to ensure that Chinese be taught in their schools and they all expected that there would be greater cooperation in the future between the Chinese and NZ schools.

Chinese Cultural Immersion Camp for New Zealand High School students

Applications are now closed for the 2017 Chinese Cultural Immersion Camp for South Island High School students in China. Students should talk to their school Chinese teacher about applying for 2018. For further information, please contact Jing Jiang

01:00pm - 02:00pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays
Room 401, Logie Building, Ilam Campus at UC

"Chinese Tea House" is one of the programmes offered by the Confucius Institute at University of Canterbury. It is a Chinese corner for all UC staff and students as well as the general public of Christchurch city to practice Chinese language and experience Chinese culture.

Chinese Tea House 中国茶坊

A cup of tea, and a relaxed chat …

Chinese Tea House is a programme offered by the Confucius Institute at the University of Canterbury. It is a Chinese corner for all UC staff and students as well as the general public of Christchurch city to practice Chinese language and experience Chinese culture. CI staff and volunteers who are native speakers of Chinese will host and organise the tea house. People interested in the Chinese language and culture are welcome to attend.

Room 401, Logie Buidling, University of Canterbury Ilam Campus

12.00 noon - 1.00 pm Tuesdays Chinese speaking practice with tutors

1.00 pm - 2.00 pm on Tuesdays: Chinese Calligraphy

12.00 noon - 1.00 pm Thursdays Chinese speaking practice with tutors

1.00 pm - 2.00 pm on Thursdays: Chinese Calligraphy

Tai Chi Classes for Beginners

Tai Chi, or Taijiquan in Chinese, is an outstanding gem of traditional Chinese culture that is valuable in promoting health, developing energy, and improving concentration and overall well-being. The Confucius Institute at UC offers evenig classes in Tai Chi.

Time: 6.00 - 7.30pm Thursday evenings
Venue: DA02, Dovedale Campus, University of Canterbury