Most universities worldwide had to temporarily interrupt face-to-face education and start Emergency Distance Education (EDE) due to the COVID-19 outbreak. It is useful to identify the difficulties and problems that universities faced in this process in order that they can carry out a similar process more efficiently in the future. Therefore, this study aimed to conduct an in vivo examination of EDE from the institutional perspective within the scope of universities during the pandemic period in Turkey. To this end, all state university websites were searched according to 27 criteria which were determined to set out the EDE readiness status of universities. The results revealed that higher education institutions had difficulty in providing sufficient pedagogical and technical guidance to academic staff due to the rapid transition. With respect to students, distance course contents, activities and announcements were not equitably accessible for students from foreign countries and those with disabilities owing to the lack of information and communications technology (ICT) tools, internet connection, translation, etc. A remarkable number of higher education institutions preferred the features of distance education tools such as cost, familiarity, stability, availability of technical support, and short preparation time rather than their pedagogical affordances.