Only three Russell Group universities have a policy in place to support student sex workers

Meanwhile there are over 200,000 UK students working in the sex industry

Durham, Newcastle and Manchester are the only Russell Group universities that have policies in place to support their students who work in the sex industry.

As part of their policy, they offer advice and safeguarding resources, such as sexual health leaflets and safe contacts to get in touch with.

In the UK currently, there are estimated to be over 214,200 student sex workers. The Tab has contacted every Russell Group university, but only three confirmed they have help in place, whilst the rest did not respond to our requests.

Last week the University of Durham backed a Durham Students’ Union (DSU) email to all students and staff advertising training sessions to help students involved in sex work.

However, the Russell Group uni quickly came under fire by Michelle Donelan, the minister for higher and further education, after she said they were “legitimising a dangerous industry” and “badly failing in their duty to protect”.

The university insisted the training was important to “ensure students can be safe and make informed choices” after noting an “emerging trend” of students selling sexual services.

Manchester and Newcastle also offer support on their websites: pointing out key advice and encouraging students who need help to come forward.

A survey by Save The Student found that three percent of students have done sex work. A further nine per cent said they would turn to sex work in a financial emergency. This would put the number of students in the UK working in the sex industry at roughly 214,200 people.

Outside of Russell Group unis, last year, the University of Leicester released a landmark resource, the ‘Student Sex Work Toolkit’. The safety resource includes details for staff on how to communicate with students about their sex work and signposting of further sources of information. They also outline a guide on the legalities of sex work and tips for students to keep themselves safe.

Their toolkit reads: “We recognise the social stigma associated with sex work and are supportive of students who earn a living through sex work.”

A 2015 survey by Swansea University found that 57 per cent of student sex workers joined the industry in order to fund their higher education.

As the University of Leicester recognises: “The project highlighted the gaps in support student sex workers felt they were experiencing whilst trying to both complete their studies and financially support themselves by working in the UK adult entertainment industry.”

One student, Lucy, told the Tab how she turned to sex work through OnlyFans after losing her bar job during the pandemic: “Both me and my mum lost our jobs at the start of the pandemic, so I had to start finding ways to support her and my little brother, as well as pay for uni living expenses. I chose sex work because I’ve always enjoyed sex and there really wasn’t much else on the table that’s flexible around my uni schedule.”

Support For Student Sex Worker’s founder Jessica Hyer Griffin emphasised the importance of universities offering support to their students: “It’s important all universities have a sex work policy to prevent students from experiencing discrimination or prejudice.

“It would mean that everyone had to follow a moral code and that personal prejudice or lack of understanding regarding the law wouldn’t affect sex workers who disclose,” Jessica told the Tab.

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