Police to investigate website trading university scholarships for sex

Site promised £15,000 towards university fees in return for ‘adventures’ with businessmen

Police are to examine evidence gathered during The Independent’s undercover investigation into a website which offered students up to £15,000 towards their university fees in return for having sex with strangers.

Officers will  seek to establish whether those behind the website could be investigated for a number of possible offences, including incitement into prostitution and sexual exploitation.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: “We will consider all the evidence passed to us and any allegations made.”

Groups which support women involved in prostitution yesterday praised The Independent’s investigation for exposing the pressures that can force vulnerable young people to sell their bodies.

The website for SponsorAScholar.co.uk has been suspended since The Independent published secret film of a man claiming to be an “assessor” seeking to persuade an undercover reporter posing as a student to undertake a “practical assessment”. In it he asks her to demonstrate the level of intimacy she was prepared to give in return for “sponsorship” to fund her studies.

SponsorAScholar.co.uk claimed to have arranged for 1,400 women aged between 17-24 to fund their studies by having “discreet adventures” with wealthy businessmen. It is not known how many women – if any – have ever been awarded “scholarships”. Nor is it known how many have ever gone through the “practical assessment”.

However, it emerged yesterday that a female escort called Kitty had been approached by a man claiming to be from the site seeking to attract new “scholars”.

Campaigners have highlighted the deep concern over the site and the effect of rising student fees. Dr Dan Boucher, director of parliamentary affairs for the international Christian charity Care, said young people should not have to subject themselves to exploitation in order to complete their studies. “The Independent’s investigation has revealed one particular and disturbing manifestation of sexual exploitation.

“With a background of an 8 per cent fall in applications to university this year and mounting concerns about debts, it is clear that sexual predators have seen an opportunity to exploit the financial vulnerability of struggling students,” he said.

Mark Wakeling, director of Beyond the Streets, said that sites such as SponsorAScholar.co.uk could give the impression that selling sex was a quick fix to make money.

“Businesses which profit from suggesting an easy income with little cost are acting irresponsibly and ignore the reality behind the vulnerability that prostitution often creates. Slick publications airbrush out the harm and promote an idea of there being little risk. Students need to be aware of the real dangers involved in such schemes and the longer-term impact,” he said.

Whilst it is illegal to run a website where men and women offer sex for money, many instead offer the services of models and escorts. Operators can only be arrested for controlling prostitution if police have evidence they knew sex is being provided for money.

If you have any information on SponsorAScholar.co.uk or believe you know the identity of the man pictured, please email investigations@independent.co.uk.

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution