The COVID-19 pandemic posed a major challenge for education leaders and policymakers across the globe. This paper discusses the experience of Tsinghua Universityâ€™s shift to fully online learning, as the first major university in the world to move all courses online in response to the 2020 pandemic. The article introduces the Institutional Resilience in Higher Education Framework to articulate the factors that drive quality education during times of crisis. The article explores the shift to online learning in the context of pandemic as transboundary crisis and details Tsinghuaâ€™s online learning emergency response to distil lessons learnt and identify emerging best practices for further online learning implementation. It extrapolates broader lessons about university response to transboundary crises and highlights the importance of effective crisis management, institutional resilience and leadership for delivering quality higher education in emergencies and beyond.