How I got free money from the Chinese government

Summer 2015: made redundant. September 2015: studying in China

Prior to being made redundant from my publishing job of 2+ years, my spidey senses were already tingling.

I secured a plan B, – as I was under no illusion that I would eventually be added to the purge list – so when I was called into the redundancy meeting on that fateful day it took a lot in me to mask my mock incredulity.

I had already planned to quit, had already taken and passed the required exams, had already been accepted into my university and now I was being asked to leave with some money thrown in? Wow.

Here is a small checklist of requirements to qualify for a Confucius Institute or government scholarship. Hope it helps!

 The application process

“The Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK) is an official examination designed to assess the Chinese language proficiency of non-native speakers from beginners to advanced Level (divided in levels 1-6). It is an internationally recognised standard in assessing your Chinese language level and the result can be used to apply for Confucius Institute Scholarship (CIS)

The Hanuy Shipping Kaouyu Kaoshi (HSKK) is the oral exam and focuses on oral capability. The HSKK is divided into three different levels: Elementary, Intermediate, and Advanced.” London Confucius Institute, SOAS

Since I was only applying for a semester course*, the requirements were to score at least 180+ on HSK and 60+ on HSKK. Please note any test taken over 2 years prior to applying will not be valid (brutal, I know). You can register/check your HSK/HSKK results here

Getting started

I applied for a scholarship via the Hanban Confucius Institute Scholarship online student enrollment system, but it is also possible to do this via the China Scholarship Council. Check out the slideshow below, which I have annotated for your convenience

Letter of recommendation

You need to provide your chosen university with a letter of recommendation from a recognized institution. This tells the university things like your Chinese proficiency, your study habits, how you intend to use your skills and why you want to study there. Originally, I asked my Chinese tutor to write one for me, but it turned out this simply didn’t cut it.

Since I sat my tests at the official Confucius Institute test centre at SOAS (University of London) and scored quite highly, they were willing to provide me with a letter of recommendation. They also gave me a lot of guidance in general, as there were aspects of the application system that really confused me. They required the following:

  • The name of the university I was applying to
  • My experiences learning Chinese
  • My experience in China (if any)
  • My HSK/HSKK result sheet
  • A personal statement and other transcripts about my Chinese course.

Visa Requirements

As soon as my application process was complete, I received notification of my acceptance and the university sent over all my materials* I was then ready to book a visa appointment. You need to provide the following:

  • Your passport (in date)
  • An original copy of your stamped admissions notice (sent from your university)
  • An original copy of the stamped ‘Visa Application for Study in China’ (sent from your university)
  • Proof of accommodation
  • Foreign Medical Examination form (only for those studying for a year or more: You also need to do further tests in China)


Keep checking the site to see if you’ve been accepted for the scholarship. It will be announced in Chinese, so if your proficiency isn’t quite up to scratch I really recommend getting Pleco and buying a handwriting add-on, or getting someone to assist you. After that, book your flight! You’ve done it!


Additional information

  • You have the option to extend to a year course in China, as long as you pass the semester and apply for a scholarship extension before the end of the year.
  • Do expect some delays between the time you see the announcement and receiving your university materials.



[click here to download this guide as a PDF]






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