Lecturers at the Hong Kong Institute of Education who were made redundant last month said yesterday their sackings were illegal and that they would fight to get their jobs back. At least 35 lecturers were told to go immediately by a consultancy firm hired by the institute. The dismissals took place between and, in some cases, during classes two weeks after the new school term had resumed. The Institute of Education in Tai Po claimed the lecturers' skills did not meet the future needs of the institute and they had failed to acquire higher academic qualifications. But staff members said they believed the school wanted to get rid of long-serving lecturers to make way for the upgrade to university status in 2004-05. The Federation of Hong Kong Higher Education Staff Associations said the move had no legal grounds. 'The reasons given are too general,' vice-chairman Chen Chi-wai said. 'The brutal approach to stripping them of their teaching posts is really a mockery of higher education.' The federation would not consider legal action because of budget constraints. Lee Chun-choi, who was a social sciences lecturer, said: 'We were hired on a lifetime basis. Under the law, the only reason we can be laid off is to make us redundant. But the criteria cited by the consultancy firm were totally irrelevant.' The deputy director of the institute, Norman Ngai Wai-yiu, said: 'We've spent two years talking with the Government to clear the complex legal issues. 'They have been made redundant because they are surplus to the school as their skills do not match our future development.' He refused to disclose the number of lecturers laid off or the number fighting the decision. Laid-off staff can challenge the decision by presenting reasons from next Tuesday to Thursday.