BA (Hons), MA, DipEd (LaTrobe); PhD (Melbourne)


Most of my academic career has entailed writing and teaching across a number of disciplines, including sociology, social policy, history of ideas and politics. 

Committed to a positive conception of academic freedom, I have been mindful of an obligation to contribute to public discussions about the issues of the day. This has entailed exploring and outlining new ways of thinking substantively about problems such as state policy-making, the rise of evidence-based policy, dissent and its criminalization, crimes of the state, the effects of neoliberal social policy on communities and especially young people, the future of work, student activism and the role of the public university. 

This interest in producing work in the public interest has also generated a body of work designed to explore new policy design principles and solutions to some major contemporary problems like unemployment, inequality, generational inequity, and planetary warming. This includes models of basic income, a Green Job Guarantee, and advocacy oriented to developing a culture of human rights in Australia. 

I have never shied away from a commitment to critical and reflexive scholarship. This has involved trying to tease out the assumptions and problems involved in framing the questions, methods and theoretical claims advanced in particular traditions or approaches to disciplines such as sociology or political science. This includes paying attention to the way key metaphors or constitutive schemes are used to create and sustain the disciplinary framework that conventional sociology, economics or political science rely on.  

I have also tried to make my work as accessible to as many people or and as relevant to various public interests as possible via reports, textbooks and research monographs.

Finally I have worked pro bono with any number of community-based organizations including NGO’s such as Job Watch, a western suburbs-based legal aid service, the Victorian Council of Social Services, and the Australian Unemployed Workers Union. I also worked for some years on developing sociology curriculum for the Victorian Curriculum Advisory Board. In 2008-9 I helped establish an innovative human rights education center at RMIT.  

Professor of Social Policy, School of Global Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University (2001-)

1.Watts, R, 2020 Criminalizing Dissent: The Liberal State and the problem of legitimacy, Routledge, London.

2. Watts R, 2016, Public Universities, Managerialism and the Value of Higher Education, Palgrave-Macmillan, London.

3.Watts, R, Bessant, R, & Farthing, R, 2017, The Precarious Generation: How policy-makers generate disadvantage among young people -and what young people are doing about it, Routledge, London.

4.Watts, R, 2014 ‘Truth and Politics: Thinking about the Evidence-based Policy in the Age of Spin’, Australian Journal of Public Administration 73 (1): 34-46.

5.Watts, R, Bessant, J, & Pickard, S, 2020, ‘Translating Bourdieu into Youth Studies’, Journal of Youth Studies, 23: (1): 76-92.