City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has launched major curriculum reforms - focusing on English - which are aimed at responding to the changing needs of the community. The university's senate has endorsed a proposal to introduce 'broader, more flexible' undergraduate programmes. Students will be given a chance to study in areas outside their main discipline, while new courses are to be introduced on Chinese civilisation, including Chinese literature, philosophy, religion and art. The senate also agreed to an ambitious scheme to enhance students' English language ability. The new curriculum will be underpinned by the development of a credit unit system, aimed at making it easier to combine courses into broader programmes and giving students more freedom of choice. The university will begin the changes in September, starting with the introduction of the credit unit system and new English courses. More reforms will be introduced in September, 1998. 'I am delighted that the university community has taken these important decisions,' said CityU president Professor Chang Hsin-kang. 'Hong Kong needs professionals able to take their place in a dynamic and international world of work,' he said. 'To be successful, our graduates must have exposure to a range of disciplines and must have good communication skills. This is what we aim to provide.' About two-thirds of an undergraduate's programme will be in a specific discipline, or professional area, with another third reserved for other studies. Studies in Chinese civilisation will comprise at least two full courses taken over a year. 'We don't underestimate the difficulty of making these changes but we are going to do whatever is necessary to give our students the best possible education for the new century,' Professor Chang said. The university's new approach to English will require that students improve their skills by the equivalent of one grade at A-Level Use of English. More stories in today's Campus section of the South China Morning Post.