COVID-19 and digital disruption in UK universities: afflictions and affordances of emergency online migration

Richard P Watermeyer*, Tom Crick, Cathryn Knight, Janet Goodall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

474 Citations (Scopus)
389 Downloads (Pure)


COVID-19 has caused the closure of university campuses around the world and migration of all learning, teaching, and assessment into online domains. The impacts of this on the academic community as frontline providers of higher education are profound. In this article, we report the findings from a survey of n=1148 academics working in universities in the United Kingdom (UK) and representing all the major disciplines and career hierarchy. Respondents report an abundance of what we call ‘afflictions’ exacted upon the irroleas educators and in far fewer yet no less visible ways ‘affordances’ derived from their rapid transition to online provision and early ‘entry-level’ use of digital pedagogies. Overall, they suggest that online migration is engendering significant dysfunctionality and disturbance to their pedagogical roles and their personal lives. They also signpost online migration as a major challenge for student recruitment, market sustainability, an academic labour-market, and local economies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)623-641
Number of pages19
JournalHigher Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

Provisional acceptance date added based on publication information.

Structured keywords

  • Covid19
  • SoE Centre for Higher Education Transformations


  • COVID-19
  • UK higher education
  • Online learning, teaching and assessment
  • Digitalisation of universities
  • Academic profession


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