The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly affected the university sector globally. This article reports on the Australian findings from a large-scale survey of academic staff and their experiences and predictions of the impact of the pandemic on their wellbeing. We report the perceptions of n = 370 Australian academics and accounts of their institutions’ responses to COVID-19, analysed using self-determination theory. Respondents report work-related stress, digital fatigue, and a negative impact on work-life balance; as well as significant concerns over potential longer-term changes to academia as a result of the pandemic. Respondents also articulate their frustration with Australia’s neoliberal policy architecture and the myopia of quasi-market reform, which has spawned an excessive reliance on international students as a pillar of income generation and therefore jeopardised institutional solvency–particularly during the pandemic. Conversely, respondents identify a number of ‘silver linings’ which speak to the resilience of academics.