5 Reasons why we should scrap the Zellick Report #StandByMe

Wednesday 02-12-2015 - 12:32

The Zellick Report is outdated, lacks guidance for universities and fails to give adequate support for student survivors of sexual assault within higher education institutions.


In 1994, an important piece of guidance was published on university student disciplinary procedures - commonly known as the Zellick Report. The report was an attempt to give clear advice to universities in cases of sexual violence in order to protect HEIs from legal challenges and reputational damage. The report is still in use today by many universities, however, there's a strong case to be made that the guidelines don’t actually do much to benefit student survivors who want to come forward and report incidences and in practice significantly undermine the support survivors have a right to receive.


Here are 5 reasons why I don't think the recommendations in the Zellick report are still appropriate for this day and age:


1. It's not the 90’s anymore

I was 2 years old when this report was written. The Zellick report is out of date and needs to be revised in light of our increased understanding of sexual harassment and sexual violence and in order to take into account new pieces of legislation in force. There have also been a number of other developments within the higher education sector to deal with complaints such as the Office of Independent Adjudicator (OIA). When we take into consideration new legislation and the establishment of new organizations to handle complaints, how can guidance from the Zellick Report still be relevant and accurate?

2. It focuses on protecting the institution rather than supporting survivors.

The report recommends that no internal disciplinary procedures should be invoked when a victim of sexual violence comes forward until the complaint is reported to the police and criminal prosecutions have concluded. Zellick’s recommendations mean the only option for the victim in order to get a response from the university is to report the incident to the police. This arguably promotes a culture of shirking responsibilities in order to avoid reputational damage rather than promoting their duty of care.


3. It fails to acknowledge the difficulties with survivors approaching the police.

The report displays a concerning lack of understanding of the nature of sexual assault and sexual violence and how these are handled within the criminal justice system. Evidence shows that 82% of rapes are never reported to the police and of these, only 1 in 5 results in court proceedings. For the few cases which do enter the court system, the average length of the court process is 1 year and 4 months from report to verdict. This means in practice, the majority of victims of sexual violence who come forward would see no action taken by their university.

4. It doesn't give any guidance about what an accessible reporting system looks like.

While the Zellick report provides detailed guidance on when to enact internal disciplinary procedures, it does not provide specific guidance on how universities should respond to complaints of sexual violence. Our Lad Culture Audit report and our recent Lad Culture and Sexism survey shows there is a lack of clarity around the complaints and disciplinary procedures for victims of sexual harassment and assault on campuses.

5. It doesn't acknowledge that support for victims of sexual violence is a vital factor in reporting processes.

The report does not outline any details about what assistance or support services victims may require during the reporting process. Sexual violence does not operate like other crimes and sensitivity and training is needed in order for university staff to respond appropriately. For example, staff, need to have an understanding about what violence against women means and constitutes and how it affects survivors. This means, at the very least, guidance dealing with disciplinary procedures also needs to give guidance on how universities should support victims of sexual violence.


Last week we launched the #StandByMe campaign because we need students’ unions and universities to stand united and demand better support for student survivors and this starts with scrapping the Zellick report. If you want to support the campaign here are some things you can do:

If you would like to know any more information about the campaign please email


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