Medic students are increasingly turning to the sex trade to pay for university tuition fees, a survey has found.
One in 10 trainee doctors claim to know peers prostituting themselves in order to fund their studies. The figure is more than twice as high as it was 10 years ago, when only 4% said they knew of someone working in the industry.
An editorial in the Student British Medical Journal (BMJ) blamed the Secret Diary of a Call Girl drama, starring Billie Piper, for the rise in numbers.
"Students in the UK may view prostitution as an easy way to get rich quick," medical student Jodi Dixon writes. "This view could be fuelled by recent coverage of prostitution in the media.
"Danger is never an issue [for Piper's character] and she oozes glamour and sophistication. The show makes prostitution seem alluring, because Belle seems to enjoy her job."
Dixon suggests a "direct association" between the rise in prostitution and the rise in tuition fees - although these are yet to come into effect.
A report published in 2010 by four academics revealed more than 25% of students at a London university knew a fellow student working in the industry, with 10% claiming they knew someone who had worked as a prostitute or escort.
"Results suggested awareness of student sex work was widespread and considered understandable by the majority," the Sex Education publication said. "A relatively high proportion (16.5%) indicated they would be willing to engage in sex work to pay for their education."
The report adds: "Sex work is established as a relatively well-paid occupation, which would permit students to have more money and time for studies than the poorly paid jobs usually available."
Prostitution was cited as the fourth most common type of sex work, after pole or lap dancing and stripping. Out of those surveyed, more than nine in 10 said they thought the main reason for students entering the trade were for financial reasons.
A Department for Education spokesman said at the time the government was targeting £180 million a year in financial support to "the most vulnerable 16 to 19-year-olds to help them continue 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."
There were more concerns of students turning to "informal work" after John Specht, vice-president of Spearmint Rhino, was accused of encouraging cash-strapped students to enter the stripping industry.
The English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) said the number of calls they had received from students had "at least doubled," particularly after the government's announcement of the future tuition fee increase.
The article in the Student BMJ highlighted the lack of support for medical students - or indeed any students.
Sue Grant, college student services manager at Birmingham University's medical school is quoted saying: "There is no policy or guidance from the medical school about students working as prostitutes."
CORRECTION: Previously we stated: "The figure is more than twice as high as it was 10 years ago, when only four in 10 said they knew of someone working in the industry." We have now amended this to: "The figure is more than twice as high as it was 10 years ago, when only 4% said they knew of someone working in the industry."
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