The UK’s New Sex for Tuition Website: SponsorAScholar.co.uk
A controversial British website offered young women ‘sponsorship’ from strangers in exchange for private encounters.   Allegedly a pretty student could cover up to US$24,000 a year of tuition fees depending on ‘the level of intimacy’ she was willing to demonstrate. The dubious business was exposed by The Independent newspaper, which sent an undercover journalist to pose as a potential scholar for a meeting with a site staffer.  The website SponsorAScholar.co.uk apparently operates in a grey zone of British law, which allows clients and sex workers to be brought together, as long as any intermediary can plausibly deny involvement in sex for money deals, the newspaper said.   It this particular case the website offered women between 17 and 24 funding for their university study from wealthy businessmen seeking “discreet adventures”. The website describes typical sponsors as: “Men between the ages of 28 and 50 who run their own successful business and want to have discreet adventures with a student whilst helping them fund their studies through a scholarship”.  The site’s registration form asks for a dress size and male students are prohibited from completing the process.  The tuition money would be received in exchange for two-hour sessions with men in hotel rooms or private flats up to four times per term. The site claims to have undertaken such arrangements for 1,400 students.  Young women facing financial hardship brought on by the rise in the cost of studying were urged tonight not to be tempted into using the website.  The sponsors use the website’s database to choose a student they want to ‘sponsor’, and a meeting is arranged. As a side benefit, they enjoy a tax deduction for the ‘scholarship’. The website claims to charge an access fee of about $160 and extra 3 per cent commission of the scholarship money. The Independent could not verify this because a male reporter who posed as a potential sponsor was put “on a wait list”, unlike his female colleague, who was offered an interview immediately.  
A Hoxed Professor
The student newspaper found that Sponsorascholar.co.uk is falsely registered as being owned by Dr. John Chalcraft, an LSE history professor.  Dr. Chalcraft denied any involvement with the site. He told The Tab: “I have not registered this or any other internet domain and have no connection with the business that is being operated from this site, or with the person using my name. I have reported this matter to the police.”   The Independent‘s investigation reveals the shady ‘assessor’ has been using Dr. Chalcraft’s name as an alter-ego. He used the professor’s name in the meeting with the reporter, in all email correspondence and even on his voicemail.
A Creepy Impostor
One of the men behind the website is called “the assessor” and is described as “a creepy impostor” by the student newspaper The Tab.  An investigation conducted by The Independent managed to meet face to face with an ‘assessor’ from the website. The female reporter who was posing as a student secretly filmed while meeting the “assessor.” The meeting happened at a London fast food venue, but the man offered to go to a nearby apartment.  The women are supposed to complete a questionnaire to describe what they are comfortable doing with the strangers. During the encounter this strange man had the audacity to demand to the undercover reporter go through a ‘practical assessment’ with him before he could find her a sponsor.   The assessor told the reporter that she would have to prove the level of intimacy she was willing to go to by returning to a nearby flat with him.   He said the further she would go, the more money she would raise from a sponsor.  He said: “Whatever you put on your sheet what level of intimacy you’re prepared to go into, you and I will go through that today. We’ve got a questionnaire we’ll go through, your likes and dislikes and the kind of thing you’re comfortable doing.”  He said this was required for “quality control”. He told her that “the more you’re prepared to do, the more interest you’re going to get, [and] obviously the more sponsorship amount you’re going to get for that.”  When the reporter said no to the ‘practical’, the man suggested meeting a later date in December. He said: “If we don’t do it tonight I can’t fit you in until then.” 
The website uses a false company and VAT identification number belonging to a legitimate dating website, Match.com.   When asked, the company told the newspaper that it was in the process of legally demanding that all references to it be removed.  A Match.com spokesman said: “The website is not affiliated with Match.com in any way and we are in the process of contacting them to legally require that all references to Match.com are removed immediately.”  The website has since gone down, saying it is undergoing maintenance.   Rachel Griffin, director of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which promotes personal safety, told the newspaper: “Meeting a complete stranger in private could be highly dangerous at any time, but when it is in connection with a scheme like this, the risks are sky-high.” The National Union of Students accused those behind the website of seeking to “capitalize on the poverty and financial hardship of women students.” 
With the Bad Economy and the High Tuition Fees, Today’s Hypersexualized Students are Gradually Turning into Prostitutes
The oldest profession in the world is becoming the job of choice for some students across the world, using a variety of means to advertise themselves.  Numbers have been increasing for several years, with calls to the English Collective of Prostitutes trebling since 2011. The organisation, which aims to legalise prostitution and campaigns for workers in the sex industry and is a frequent port of call for those with concerns, has said that since fees went up in 2012 that their phone lines have had “unprecedented” levels of traffic.  The rise in fees which will see some students graduate with projected debts of up to £53,000 at the end of their course is being blamed for persuading young women and men to take up pole dancing, escort work or even prostitution.  Experts say that university welfare officers are largely ignorant of the growing phenomenon and poorly equipped to deal with issues arising from young people’s involvement.   The website Craigslist exhibits many adverts, with a lot claiming to be from students. Postings and replies can be made with nothing more than an email address to identify the user. 
Research by Dr Ron Roberts, of the University of Kingston, published in 2010 suggested that one in four students know someone who had worked in the sex industry to fund their studies – up from three per cent in 1990. Dr Roberts found 16 per cent would consider working in the industry while more than one in 10 were open to the idea of being an escort.   The number of university students who know someone who has worked in the sex industry to fund their studies has gone up from “3% to 25% in 10 years”.  Dr Roberts said high tuition fees had driven students to work as lap dancers and for chat lines and internet pornography.  Although his survey was conducted at one London university, he said the rest of his research had found these findings were indicative of the entire country, particularly in urban areas. He attributed this to the rising level of student debt and the proliferation of lap dancing clubs. “Sexual imagery is everywhere. The middle classes are now kind of entering sex work and seeing it as a viable career path. The whole moral climate has altered substantially,” he said.  Dr Roberts blamed tuition fees for the rise in students undertaking such work and accused universities of “burying their heads in the sand”. 
Research by Teela Sanders and Kate Hardy, of the University of Leeds, found that a quarter of lap dancers had a degree whilst a third of the women they interviewed were using the job to fund new forms of training. The first academic research project into lap dancing has found that, rather than being uneducated young women who have been coerced into the industry, one in four dancers has a degree and has been attracted by the money.  Strippers take home an average of £232 per shift – or £48,000 a year – after paying commission and fees to the club where they work.  Aspiring actresses, models and artists used exotic dancing as a career strategy which fitted alongside their other work, training or studies. Unemployed new graduates – mainly with arts degrees – were also dancing because they could not find graduate jobs and found that lap dancing paid much better than bar work.  Interestingly enough, the study found the vast majority of dancers reported high rates of job satisfaction.  The main attraction of the work was the flexibility it offered to combine different work options and studying.  The preliminary findings of the year-long study, which will include interviews with 300 dancers, reveal that all the women interviewed had finished school and gained some qualifications. Most (87 per cent) had at least completed a further education course, while one in four had undergraduate degrees. Just over one in three dancers were in some form of education, with 13.9 per cent using dancing to help fund an undergraduate degree, 6.3 per cent to help fund a postgraduate degree, and 3.8 per cent using it to fund further education courses. Some women begin dancing after graduating from university and not being able to find work. The researchers found arts degree graduates were most likely to report that they had turned to dancing after being unable to find other work. Others used dancing to provide a more steady and reliable income when working in more unstable arts jobs.