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Blood, sex, and gear – students forced to go to extraordinary lengths to fund their time at university

British students are going to extraordinary lengths to fund their studies – including sex work and drug dealing – to cope with the crippling cost of college, which sees graduates facing debts of £45,000 or more.

According to “The Real Cost of Uni”, an inaugural student survey from Debut, one in 10 undergraduates know someone who turned to drug dealing at University as a way of funding their studies – this means campuses across the country play home to 172,790 drug dealers1. And one in 20 claim to know someone who had turned to escorting as a way of earning money at university.

Students choose “carnal careers” over charity

The survey also found that students are four times more likely to consider escorting or getting a sugar daddy than charity fundraising – in fact, one in 25 students said they were considering looking for a sugar daddy as a way to support their studies. The highest number of students considering getting frisky for cash are based in the North East, with one in ten (11 per cent) considering sugar daddies, and 9 per cent escorting.

Those in the South East are most likely to get naked for cash, with 8 per cent considering stripping to pay the bills. The survey also found that the number of UK students contemplating escort work more than doubled between the first and third years of uni, as high-minded morals give way to the realities of the costs of being a student in Britain today.

When asked which of the following ways to get money do you think is OK for students to get by today, stripping (17 per cent), escort work (14 per cent) and sugar daddies (13 per cent) are seen as acceptable ways to survive by more students than gambling (9 per cent).


Punters and dealers

But it’s not just sex work that’s paying the bills – the survey found that drugs and gambling are seen as acceptable money-making activities by a sizeable number of students. Ten per cent of undergraduates know a fellow student who has either sold drugs or gambled to get by at university, twice the number of those who know a blood donor.

Students in Wales and the South West are most likely to know a drug dealer (15 per cent of respondents), while those in Scotland are most likely to know someone who resorted to a sugar daddy. London appears to be the capital of prostitution, with 16 per cent of students knowing a fellow student who has undertaken escort work coming from the city – twice as high as Yorkshire & Humber, the next highest region (8 per cent).


Students need more money-making options

The research was commissioned by student and graduate employment specialists Debut, creators of a new careers app that brings recruitment into the 21st century by connecting students, graduates and companies - through their mobile phones. Debut is already used by over 40 FTSE 100 companies to connect with the brightest under- and post-graduate talent in the UK.

“Every parent who has children at university knows that the cost of tertiary education is crippling, but they might not be aware of the lengths to which their children will go to fund themselves,” said Charles Taylor, CEO of Debut. “While it’s easy for the older generation to disparage the employment choices that students are making or considering, the climate is very different from when parents were their age: not only do students have to contend with annual fees of up to £9,000, but it’s increasingly difficult to find part-time employment that will pay the bills while leaving enough time to pursue their studies.

“Debut’s research shows the urgent imperative to provide more opportunities for students to earn money while they study,” continued Taylor. “This could include, for example, fostering ‘entrepreneur clubs’ at universities where students can be encouraged and mentored to make money using the skills and experience that they are gaining in their degrees.

“But this research should be eye-opening for businesses, too. There is such a wealth of talent at universities, and forward-looking firms could be investigating how they can reach out to the brightest graduates and provide them with meaning and well-rewarded work as the first step towards securing them as the talent of tomorrow,” he concluded.

Tough times

Debut’s research also revealed that while more than four out of five students (83 per cent) use a Student Loan to fund their studies, nearly half (45 per cent) also receive financial support from their parents – equating to 777,553 students across the UK. Just under a quarter of the students surveyed (23 per cent) also have a grant or hardship fund to support their studies – equating to 397,416 undergraduates in the UK.

  • Date published: 24th October 2016



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