Barriers to Teaching and Research Provision in the UK Higher Education Sector During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Rasha Kassem, Fotios Mitsakis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic necessitated a rapid transition to remote teaching in Higher Education (HE) institutions worldwide. Whilst there is existing research on the advantages and disadvantages of online teaching from transactional and adult learning theory perspectives, there is a lack of investigation into the specific challenges faced by academics in the UK HE sector concerning their teaching and research during the pandemic. This paper aims to fill this research gap by examining the experiences of nearly 300 academics in the UK HE sector through a qualitative online questionnaire. The findings of this study reveal several challenges associated with the sudden shift to online teaching. These challenges include time constraints, a lack of digital skills, technology issues, and an increased teaching workload. Academics also encountered difficulties engaging and connecting with students, as remote teaching created a sense of detachment between them. This finding aligns with the theoretical propositions of the self-determination theory, particularly regarding the sense of relatedness. Remote teaching presented obstacles in gauging students' reactions and understanding, as it lacked interactivity, personalisation, and the ability to keep students motivated and engaged. Additionally, academics faced issues assessing online assignments and monitoring students' progress and development. The isolation from remote work further contributed to a lack of concentration in teaching and research. The study also highlights the significant increase in teaching loads experienced by academics, as they had to adapt their teaching materials to suit the new mode of delivery. Academic research was impeded by limited access to labs, equipment, research time, and support due to the demands of teaching. Field-based research was put on hold, and many academics found collaborating with colleagues without physical proximity challenging. Considering these challenges, the study proposes ideas for overcoming barriers in future crisis events. The findings have implications for research and policy, further discussed in the paper.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHigher Education Policy
Early online date16 Dec 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © International Association of Universities, 2023. This version of the article has been accepted for publication, after peer review and is subject to Springer Nature’s AM terms of use [], but is not the Version of Record and does not reflect post-acceptance improvements, or any corrections. The Version of Record is available online at:


  • Academic staff
  • COVID-19
  • Higher Education
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Crisis management


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