More and more students are turning to work in the sex industry to pay their way through university in the face of rising tuition fees and living costs, it was revealed today.
The National Union of Students has warned that as well as sex work, students are turning to gambling and medical experiments to pay for their education.
Government reforms mean universities can start charging up to £9,000 annually in tuition fees from next year.
In addition, the education maintenance allowance (EMA) for 16 to 19-year-olds has been scrapped.
It is these reforms that are causing students to turn to the 'informal' sector for money, according to the NUS.
Estelle Hart, the NUS national women’s officer, told BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast: “Students are taking more dangerous measures.
'In an economic climate where there are very few jobs, where student support has been massively cut, people are taking more work in the informal economy, such as sex work.
'It’s all dangerous unregulated work, simply so people can stay in education.
The NUS also told BBC 5 live Breakfast it estimated about 20% of women working in lap dancing clubs were students.
A Department for Education spokesman said: 'We are targeting £180 million a year financial support at the most vulnerable 16 to 19-year-olds to help them continue their studies - with transitional funding for the students who were getting the top rate of EMA and partway through 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.'
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: 'Under the current university funding system, no student has to pay in advance for tuition.
'There is a generous package of financial support to help with living costs in the form of loans and non-repayable grants.
'Our reforms will make the system even fairer, with more financial support and lower monthly repayments once you are in well-paid work.'
A spokesman for the NUS said although they did not have any quantitative evidence, they backed Ms Hart's comments.
'Anecdotally we are seeing a lot more of this and when you combine this with other reports there does seem to be an increase (in students working in the sex industry),' he said.
'We don't have any quantitative basis to back it up but we are confident to say this is an increasing problem.
'This hasn't originated from us but we are very confident standing by what Estelle said to 5 Live.'