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Struggling for cash, students are offering themselves up for prostitution

The National Union of Students (NUS) is claiming that greater numbers of students in England are turning to prostitution for funding their education.

This is not all. They are also taking up gambling and participating in medical experiments to fund their studies.

Even as the government is insisting of offering students a "generous package" of financial support, the NUS is attributing the trend to increased living costs and fees, besides the cuts to the education maintenance allowance.

The assertion is significant as UK also has a sizeable number of foreign students.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live's Breakfast programme, the NUS's national women's officer Estelle Hart said government cuts were putting more pressure on students.

"Students are taking more dangerous measures," said Ms Hart.

"In an economic climate where there are very few jobs, where student support has been massively cut, people are taking more work in the informal economy, such as sex work.

"It's all dangerous unregulated work, simply so people can stay in education."

The NUS told BBC 5 live Breakfast that estimates suggest about 20 per cent of women working in lap dancing clubs are students.

The assertion echoes the findings of the research from the University of Kingston published last year. It found that number of varsity students knowing someone who had worked in the sex industry to fund their studies had gone up from 3 per cent to 25 per cent during the decade.

Led by senior lecturer in psychology Dr Ron Roberts, the survey 16 per cent would consider working in the sex industry.

Corroborating the NUS assertion is the English Collective of Prostitutes. Running a helpline from its base in London, it says number of calls received from students had at least doubled in the past year.

Sarah Walker from the organisation has been witnessing a steady rise in the number of calls from the students over the past 10 years. But, says the group has received an unprecedented number of calls since the government's announcement that varsities in England could charge tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year from 2012.

The ministers know that the cuts they're making are driving women into things like sex work. It's a survival strategy so we would hold the government responsible for that, Walker says.

The BBC says it’s not just varsity turning to the adult industry to fund their education.

Eighteen-year-old Clare – name changed – took to escorting during her A-levels after she found out her education maintenance allowance (EMA) was in danger of being slashed.

The BBC quoted her as saying: "I couldn't go to college without EMA. My travel costs are £70 a month, without it I don't know what I'd have done. I didn't know who I could go to in college, and I didn't want to rely on my family."

"I began looking for jobs, but the hours were unsociable. A lot of my friends have gone on to shop work, and have ended up leaving college. I didn't want that to be me."

"I had a friend who'd been trying to get me to join his escort agency since I was 16. He was telling me stories about how much I could earn, how the hours would fit around me, that I could control who I saw, when I saw them and how often.

"It just sounded more desirable. I couldn't see any other option."

But Clare has a message for all. After leaving the adult industry to go ahead with her studies, she says: "I did this so I could go to college, go to university, for it to have a positive effect on the rest of my life.

"But I'm a different person to how I was when I started out. I've lost a lot of my confidence and I've lost trust in a lot of people.

"There are people you can talk to about it, and bursaries you can get. Find out all you can before taking such a large step, because I didn't."

On the other hand, a spokesman for the Department for Education says they are targeting £180m a year financial support at the most vulnerable 16- to 19-year-olds to help them continue their studies with transitional funding for the students who were getting the top rate of EMA and part way through their studies.

It is down to schools and colleges themselves to award bursaries to young people who need the most help. If students are really struggling financially, they need to speak directly to their tutors.

As per the BBC, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills says the new reforms in higher education funding will make the system fairer, and students will receive more financial support and have lower monthly repayments.

 

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