Ken Goodwin grew up in Homebush, Sydney, son of a lift driver and a dressmaker. He was the first member of his family to go to university, where he completed a BA (Hons) in English and a DipEd. Other subjects in his undergraduate degree were Philosophy and Physics. After a year teaching high school he lectured at Wagga Wagga Teachers' College and then moved to the University of Queensland in 1959. He had a rapid rise over the next decade or so, completing his MA on Ezra Pound's influence in 1963 and his DPhil on William Morris as poet and artist in 1970. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1967, to Reader in 1970 and to Professor in 1971. In 1992 he resigned from the University of Queensland to become Deputy Vice- Chancellor at the University of Southern Queensland.