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.


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 42 Mandarin Language Assistants and three Mandarin teachers employed by the Confucius Institute at the University of Canterbury teaching Chinese. The MLAs typically live with local 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 2020, schools are asked to pay an administration fee of $500 per MLA which can be shared among schools hosting the MLA. If the MLA is only at a school part time, the cost is reduced. 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. Some schools also offer evening classes in Mandarin, which Mandarin Language Assistants are able to teach.

Martial arts and Tai Chi

CIUC also has a specialised Martial Arts instructor. She is available to teach at schools. She can teach regular lessons in Christchurch, or do one-off cultural interactive demonstrations throughout the South Island. She is 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 making arrangemennts for homestay accommodation. The costs of the homestay accommodation are also covered by the Confucius Institute Headquarters. 

The schools should provide support for MLAs in their role teaching Chinese. Particularly, they should give them the opportunity to learn about teaching in New Zealand, including allowing them to observe classes. They should also provide feedback on their 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 generally do not have access to cars, and often don't have a driver's license.

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 Deputy Director
Associate Professor Qianhua Yu
Ph: 03 369 3383

The Chinese Centre for Language Education and Cooperation (CELC) provides 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

Contact person at the University of Canterbury
Associate Professor Qianhua Yu
Phone: 03 369 3383

Chinese proficiency exam poster

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.

HSK is designed to meet the need for a systematic measure of Chinese language proficiency that could be used throughout the world. We offer three types of examination: HSK (writing, reading and listening), HSKK (speaking) and YCT (reading, writing and listening for school students). HSK tests the standard Chinese of adults and can be used as evidence of Chinese ability internationally. The Youth Chinese Test (YCT) is for school age learners of Chinese and measures general Chinese. All information on HSK Tests and HSK Preparation Courses will be announced on this website. You can purchase exam preparation materials from the Confucius Institute.

Information about 2021 exams is below:

Information Sheet for Chinese Examinations 2021 (PDF, 488KB)

Chinese Proficiency Exams Registration Form

In the meantime, if you would like to take the examinations this year, please email Huijuan Hu.

Contact Details

Ms Huijuan Hu
Confucius Institute at the University of Canterbury
Room 206, James Logie Building 
University of Canterbury 
Christchurch 8140, New Zealand 
Phone: 03 369 4399

A poster advertising the 2021 Chinese Bridge speech competition

The Chinese Bridge Competition

The Chinese Bridge competition is a speech competition for students from Year 7 to Tertiary level, with series of competitions as per below:

Thursday 27th May in Columba College, Dunedin, for the Lower South Island Preliminary;

Sunday 30th May in UC Central Lecture Theatres for the Upper South Island Preliminary;

Sunday 13th June in UC Central Lecture Theatres for the South Island Final;

Sunday 8th August NZ National Speech Competition for Secondary students to be hosted by the Confucius Institute at the University of Canterbury online via Zoom;    

Winners of the national competition will participate in the international speech competition online afterwards this year due to the Covid-19, see the documents below:

CIUC 2021 Bridge Junior/Senior information

CIUC 2021 Chinese Bridge Speech Competition Information Tertiary

For more information, contact Zhengnan Shen:

Phone: +64 3 3691494

A poster advertising the calligraphy competition

The Calligraphy Competition

The Calligraphy Competition is organised by the Confucius Institute at the University of Canterbury and is open to all New Zealand school students and Tertiary Institutions. Both native and non-native speakers of Chinese are welcome to enter. Winning entries are collected and published by CIUC in book form.

Competition entries are due by 2 July 2021.

CIUC 2021 Calligraphy General Information

CIUC 2021 Calligraphy grid

For more information, contact Zhengnan Shen:

Phone: +64 3 3691494

Photo of the principals in China

New Zealand Principals' Delegation to China

Every year the Confucius Institute organises a delegation to China for school leaders. Schools are expected to cover the cost of the flights to and from China, but Hanban pays all expenses within China. The delegation is an opportunity for school leaders to learn about China and experience the culture first hand.

CIUC 2021 Principals Delegation Notice

CIUC 2021 Principals Delegation Application Form

‌For more information, please contact:

Janet (Qianhua) Yu
Phone: 03 369 3383

News about the 2019 Principals' Delegation to China

The NZ South Island Principals’ Delegation to China has completed its eleven days’ tour and returned to New Zealand on 19 April. The principals’ delegation consisted of principals and deputy principals from three South Island schools and leaders from the University of Canterbury.

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.

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. They also visited one of the top schools in the region, Huanggang High School. The principals had the opportunity to talk face to face with students and staff in these schools and learned a significant amount about the fundamentals of the Chinese educational 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. 

The delegation explored some famous historical sites during their 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.

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.  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 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.

At present, due to the lockdown, the Chinese Tea House is being held by Zoom. For meeting ID details, please contact Liming (Lydia) Qi by emailing

12.00 noon - 1.00 pm on Tuesdays: Chinese speaking practice with tutors

1.00 pm - 2.00 pm on Tuesdays: Chinese Calligraphy (cancelled until university premises are available again)

12.00 noon - 1.00 pm Thursdays Chinese speaking practice with tutors

1.00 pm - 2.00 pm on Thursdays: Chinese Calligraphy (cancelled until university premises are available again)

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 evening classes in Tai Chi.

Time: 5.30 - 6.30 Tuesday evenings
          5.30 - 6.30 Wednesday evenings

Term dates for 2020

Term 1: 4 February to 8 April 2020
Term 2: 29 April to 4 July 2020
Term 3: 22 July to 26 September 2020
Term 4: 14 October to 5 December 2018

Students need to register and pay for the course online.

For more information, please email Mei (Emily) Jin (

Photo of the students on the 2019 students' trip to China

2021 Students' Cultural Camp in China

Every year, we organise a camp for Chinese language students in China. You will have the opportunity to go sightseeing, learn some more Chinese and spend time with a Chinese family. If you are interested, you should talk to your Chinese teacher first. They will be able to give your more information about the camp. 

CIUC 2021 Students Camp Information

CIUC 2021 Cultural Camp Student Application

CIUC 2021 Cultural Camp School Application

CIUC 2021 Student Camp Supervisors Application

For more information about the camp, please contact:
Janet (Qianhua) Yu
Phone: 03 369 3383