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The BBC's James Westhead
"There is some evidence to suggest that a growing number of students are selling sex to pay for their studies"
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President, National Union of Students, Owain James
"The average student debt on graduation is now 12,000"
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Sunday, 29 April, 2001, 21:36 GMT 22:36 UK
Hard-up students 'turn to vice'

An estimated 3-4% of students turn to vice

By Matthew Chapman

Leading health care experts have blamed changes in the student grant system for a rise in the number of cash-strapped students turning to prostitution.

One student leader estimates that 60% of all sex workers in Leeds are full-time students.

The country's leading clinic for prostitutes, the Praed Street Project in London, says a growing number of the 2,000 sex workers they treat annually are students.

"We've noticed a significant increase in the last three to four years, of students who have entered into the sex industry with a goal to finance their studies," said manager Jane Ayres.

"They have clearly said that changes in the grant system have affected their choice."

The Leeds sex industry is primarily composed of students

James Cemmell
Leeds Student Union
By their third year, most students face an average 8,000 debt, studies have shown.

Researchers at Westminster University in London estimate that 3-4% of indebted students turn to the sex industry to earn extra money.

Student leaders in Leeds claim the problem has reached worrying levels.

"The Leeds sex industry is primarily composed of students," said James Cemmell, education officer at Leeds Student Union.

Mr Cemmell, who gathered evidence from local groups which help prostitutes, said: "The figure being touted is that 60% of sex workers in Leeds are students.

"It's obviously not a good state of affairs if our students are having to resort to such drastic methods."

Students targeted

Brothel owners have even begun targeting campuses to recruit new workers.

Local newspapers often carry advertisements calling on students to become escorts, which can be tantamount to prostitution.

The lure of earning up to 1,000 a week has led some girl students to work in massage parlours and have their pictures put on sex sites on the internet.

It's disgusting some of the people you have to sleep with, but I need the money

Sarah, 20
Student prostitute
"We get quite a few students applying and they are very welcome here," said Charlie Daniels, the 42-year-old owner of massage parlour Pussycats, in central Leeds.

She said students could earn up to 30,000 a year working part-time in city brothels because they were in demand.


Sarah, a 20 year old from Edinburgh studying business studies, is typical.

Forced by debt into prostitution, Sarah's services are advertised on the internet by the escort company she works for.

The site boasts that Sarah is "studying hard at college" and is "bright, intelligent, and a young sweetie" but the reality for her is harsh.

"It's disgusting some of the people you have to sleep with, but I need the money," said Sarah.

For a Labour government that has prided themselves on social justice and equality it is embarrassing

Dr Ron Robert
"Last week I earnt 1,000, on a quiet week you can earn 500 or 700. I wouldn't be at college if I wasn't escorting, as I wouldn't have had the money to do it.

"Hopefully by doing this I will have cleared my debt and will have been through college and university and then that's setting you up for the rest of your life, isn't it?"

Academics have accused the government of betraying students by gradually removing grants and forcing them to take loans.

"For a Labour government that has prided themselves on social justice and equality it is embarrassing," said Dr Ron Robert - formerly of Westminster University, London - who has researched student debt and poverty.

"We've found that debt in students was linked to students becoming involved in criminal activity, drug dealing and prostitution, just so they can support themselves financially."

Dr Robert's research from 1999 found that 75% of students had difficulty paying bills and they were working on average 18 hours a week, in addition to their studies.

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06 Jul 00 | Education
Students could face big fee rise
15 Nov 00 | Education
Students march against fees
15 Nov 00 | Scotland
Hardship 'bar' to studying
30 Sep 00 | Europe
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