An exploration of academic identity through the COVID-19 pandemic

Sally Smith, Kris Plum, Ella Taylor-Smith, Khristin Fabian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The COVID-19 global pandemic precipitated migration to online learning and teaching for students and universities. This study explored the change in self-identification in an academic role through the significant disruption caused by the urgent migration from on-campus teaching to online teaching in the face of lockdowns designed to limit the spread of the virus. Drawing upon identity theory, this study explored the impact of the swift change in work practices on the academic identities of staff (n = 33) at a UK university. Three themes were identified: identity disruption, sensemaking and nostalgia for what had been lost. Hearing directly from academics is important because academic identity, in an increasingly neoliberal sector, was already a topic of interest, with tension and insecurity affecting work practices, including interactions with students. The experiences of the disrupted academic sessions could result in significant changes in practice, and a re-shaping of the academic role to build upon online pedagogies, interactions with students, and peers. If so, what it means to be an academic will change with consequent implications for prioritisation, workloads, attracting and retaining academics, and student experience. The themes arising from this study are discussed and implications for future practice are presented.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Further and Higher Education
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2022


  • academic identity
  • COVID-19
  • online teaching
  • teaching practice


Dive into the research topics of 'An exploration of academic identity through the COVID-19 pandemic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this