An Arabic degree is being launched by the University of Hong Kong with a major donation from a Saudi business tycoon. A total of 25 places will be offered from September on the programme being set up by the university's language centre. It will take students with no prior experience of Arabic on a range of degrees offering the language as a single or double major with arts and social science subjects or business studies. Acting director Dr Michael Martin said Arabic was the first of a range of new language degrees the centre hoped to offer. A 'generous initial start-up donation' to the programme had been made by Saad Al-Rashid, managing director of Abdulrahman Saad Al-Rashid and Sons, an international banking, contracting, property and hospitals group. 'We currently offer a wide range of European languages but we aim to expand our language provision to include the major languages in other parts of the world especially Asia and the Middle East,' he said. 'The Middle East is a part of the world that we have neglected in Hong Kong and yet it is very important politically and economically these days. As a university, we are interested in the social and cultural aspects of the Arab world as well. 'In the light of a recent questionnaire run by the university looking at students' interests in language courses, we are hopeful that we will get an enthusiastic response to this new programme.' Arabic will also be offered as a subsidiary or an elective and as an extra-curricular certificate. Students will be selected for their overall academic achievement, aptitude for languages and motivation. One lecturer is being employed this year to lead the programme, which will be expanded if it proves popular.