A Chinese nursing student is taking her tutors and polytechnic to the Human Rights Commission, accusing them of failing her in her final year of her bachelor of nursing course because of her accent.

"My tutors failed me because they said the way that I speak meant people couldn't understand me, and they said it meant I will not be able to provide proper care to patients," said Linda Tang, 42, who last week decided to drop out of her course at Unitec because she believed the tutors were making it impossible for her to pass.

"To say my English is not good enough is just an excuse. I feel that what they have done is discriminatory, especially to the Chinese, because we are penalised not for our lack of knowledge or ability, but simply because of how we talk."

Ms Tang, who holds a bachelor of english degree and is a former English lecturer at a university in China, said she was confident of her written English ability. Before enrolling at Unitec, Ms Tang said she was a bilingual teacher at Kingsland Institute and taught English to other immigrants.

Ms Tang, who moved to New Zealand as a skilled migrant in 2002, said she scored 6.5 on the International English Language Testing System to qualify, and that was also the level required for admission to Unitec's nursing degree course.

"Maybe I can't speak English like a Kiwi, but I am bilingual and also speak Mandarin and surely that must be seen as a plus in nursing rather than something negative," Ms Tang said.

"If Unitec fails Chinese students for not being able to communicate properly in English, Kiwi students should also not pass because they cannot communicate with hospital patients who speak other languages."

A Unitec spokesman said its representatives will be co-operating with the commission and attending a meeting organised for Friday.

"Unitec has established internal policies and procedures to deal with student complaints, including those pertaining to racial discrimination," he said.

Unitec has 180 nursing students, of which 31 per cent Asian and 12.7 per cent Chinese in the first year of its course.

Chinese students make up 17 per cent of second-year nursing students, and 19 per cent in the final year.