Author Jodi Dixon, a final-year medical student at the University of Birmingham, U.K., describes a 2010 study of 315 students at London University in which 1 in 10 reported knowing a fellow student who had turned to prostitution out of financial necessity. "Jobs in shops and pubs that students usually take up to cover living costs are increasingly scarce and low paid," says Sarah Walker, spokesperson for the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP). "For women -- it's a survival strategy they are driven into by poverty." If many students are apparently turning to sex work to cover tuition and living expenses, that would seem to indicate that tuition costs are intolerably high.
Many people who go into prostitution fail to adequately consider the risks, Dixon says. It's dangerous work, often far removed from its glamorous portrayals in the media, she adds. (Take, for instance, the story of Brooke Magnanti, who worked as a "high class call girl" while earning a Ph.D. in informatics, epidemiology, and forensic science at the University of Sheffield. Her story was turned into a U.K. television series.)
What's more, in the United Kingdom, prostitution itself is not illegal, and most medical schools apparently have no policies related to student prostitution. It's unclear whether engaging in prostitution would violate a school's honor or conduct codes. Even if it doesn't, students considering prostitution should consider the potential damage to their professional reputations. In light of the realities of high tuition and low job opportunities, medical schools should think about adopting clear policies so that students are informed about how a decision to go into prostitution could affect them, she says.