Thursday, 15 December 2011

NUS needs to stop scaring students...

I was appalled to read a story in the Metro this morning (well last week now) claiming that students are turning to work in the sex industry to meet the cost of their tuition fees.  There is an extended version of the story on BBC news which is a little more insightful.  Obviously it is terrible when people feel that their situation leaves them with no choice but to turn to prostitution, there needs to be clear advise and support to any student who finds themselves in such a situation - but no-one will be in that situation because of the level of fees as repayments are income contingent.

I got angry with this as it took what is a worrying story and politicised it by the inclusion of tuition fees when they should not be a relevant factor.  By perpetuating the myth and including it in such stories all that they are doing is putting more potential students off applying for University as they think they wont be able to afford it.  An good piece in the Lib Dem Voice a little while back highlighted how Scotland's free Tuition actually makes it harder on the students as in order to save money on fees they reduce the grants and loans (i.e. the support) that students receive whilst doing their studies.  Since no student pays fees up front and the level of support is higher the fees system actually is less reason for students to be "forced" to turn to the sex industry.

"The NUS also told BBC 5 live Breakfast it estimated about 20% of women working in lap dancing clubs were students."

This statistic doesn't surprise me at all.  I would have thought that a large proportion of women working in this (legal) profession are of typical student age, the hours would probably fit in well with their courses and it would be an opportunity for them to make really good money.  (I'd wager that the salaries/tips would be a lot better than working in a supermarket or just behind a bar).  As long as no woman is forced into the situation and sees it as a genuine choice I fail to see where the problem lies here and of course more people work in the industry as it's become more socially acceptable.  

The key issue is to make sure no woman (or man) ever feels that their only option is to go into a potentially exploitative industry (legal or illegal).  There is support available to them, the NUS would be better served advising their students of this support rather than trying to scare future students.  

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