Teaching Criminology and Social Justice in the context of student mobility and internationalised higher education

A/Prof. James Roffee1, Dr Kate Burns2
1Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn, Australia, 2Monash University, Clayton, Australia

The use of international mobility experiences presents specific opportunities and tensions, when seeking to teach issues of social justice, particularly in disciplines such as criminology. Decisions to give students access to authentic and experiential learning practices with practitioners, can involve travel to countries and direct engagement with criminal justice institutions and actors, that are known to breach human rights and employ methods and tactics that are widely deemed unethical. However, it is the very act of visiting countries with divergent criminal challenges and responses to criminality, that provide some of the greatest opportunities for student learning, because of the direct engagement with communities and consequent social empathy that can promote greater understandings of social justice.

This paper explores the contested value in the appropriate exposure of students through international mobility experiences, particularly for teaching courses focused on social justice. While it has been argued that scholars in criminology should prioritise disciplinary activities that contribute to the creation of a more just society (Richie, 2011), the utilisation of international learning opportunities and global engagement involving students can be particularly fraught. Utilising interviews with unit/module-leaders, line management and university administrators, the paper unpacks the challenges and processes of navigating the decision to undertake international mobility opportunities from concept stage to on-the-ground delivery. The theoretical concerns and practical challenges surrounding decisions to develop and manage international mobility opportunities for undergraduate students to the United States (in the Trump era), United Kingdom (post-Brexit) and Myanmar (in the treatment of the Rohingya peoples), are discussed.


Dr James Roffee is an Associate Professor of Law and Associate Dean International at Swinburne University of Technology. James has an extensive array of teaching experience in the context of international mobility and is the recipient of the 2017 Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence from Monash University. His current research interests include inclusion, marginalisation and crime in LGBTIQ communities and inclusive practices in higher education.

Dr Kate Burns is a Scholarly Teaching Fellow at Monash University. Kate has wide public-sector experience and prior to taking up her academic position at Monash, worked in various public policy positions in the United Kingdom with a focus on the criminal justice system. Kate’s research interests include criminal justice policy, penal systems, incarceration and justice reinvestment


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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