Professor Rob Watts


Professor in Social Science

School /
Work Unit

Global, Urban and Social Studies

Contact Details

+61 3 9925 8247


Building: 37
Level: 2
Room: 11

City Campus


Design & Social Context


"Rob Watts thumbnail"

Key activities

Rob Watts is currently Professor of Social Policy at RMIT University. At a time when the critical role and work of a public university is under attack from so many quarters, he believes it is more important than ever before that university teachers work out what being a good teacher demands of them while being actively engaged in socially valuable research and writing. This requires first of all showing what ought to be done rather than just talking about it, and a passionate engagement with the activities which define a university’s role. Passion here is understood as Nietszche once put it less in terms of intensity and more in terms of duration.

Rob’s work as a teacher and a writer has been driven by an abiding and deep intellectual curiosity and a desire to better understand ourselves and our world as a prelude to doing better so that we can all lead flourishing lives. As a teacher, he wants to inspire all of his students especially first year students and to show them something of the delights that come from thinking well, and why that has everything to do with doing well as professionals employed across the whole range of community services and public policy where our graduates work. He continues to teach and to supervise students doing higher degrees by research.

He has never seen any virtue in narrowly defined research projects or in teaching the same stuff year after year and continues to write and teach across any number of disciplinary and intellectual traditions. Cowardice, laziness and a persistent capacity to either deny the obvious or flee into fantasies of one sort or another especially when inspired by risk-averse managerialism are the only obstacles to having good universities or a good society. That modern universities, governments, the corporate sector (including the mass media) and the community sector all provide examples of both the constraints on and the possibilities of thinking better and doing better provide a constant source of provocation for all his work.

He continues to care about clarity of thought, speaking and writing, still loves the music of J.S. Bach, and adores his many grandchildren.


  • Policy Studies
  • Ethics and Good Practice
  • History of Ideas
  • Applied Human Rights
  • Organisational Studies


BA (Hons), MA, Dip Ed La Trobe University, PhD University of Melbourne

Professional interests and links to industry

Rob’s community work has included:

  • The design of an integrated TAFE Diploma-Higher Education degree in Community development (1987-1988)
  • Helping in the founding of the Victorian Greens Party
  • Being the founding editor for the VCOSS-based journal Just Policy (1994-2006)
  • Being a board member on JobWatch
  • The development and establishment of the Australian Center for Human Rights Education (ACHRE) at RMIT (2008)

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