Although previous research has examined how generic skills and disciplinary contexts are related, such investigation has not been conducted from students' perspectives. Implications of disciplinary differences for the design of a generic skills curriculum have also remained unexplored. In this study, a questionnaire was administered to 502 first-year engineering and business students from a Hong Kong university which explored their perceived importance and competence level of their generic skills, as well as their motivation towards developing these skills. The results of engineering and business students were compared which revealed some disciplinary differences. Substantial differences were found in the importance and competency ratings on IT skills and business students gave significantly higher importance ratings on most generic skills than engineering students. This study will help guide curriculum design that leverages the benefits of interdisciplinary programmes and incorporates generic skills as part of learning outcomes within disciplinary contexts.